ARSONISTS have destroyed part of New Brighton's iconic Mermaid Trail in a disgusting act of vandalism.

These shocking pictures, taken by Frank Lund, show the destruction left by thugs in Vale Park in the early hours of this morning. A Vespa moped had also been set alight and was found nearby. 

Merseyside police and fire service have launched an investigation and are appealing for witnesses.

An area of the park has been cordoned off to visitors for safety reasons.

The Mermaid statue in Vale Park was named after Paxtonea – known as The Soothing Siren. It had been sponsored by New Brighton residents Carl and Rose Leckie, in celebration of their 55th wedding anniversary.

A devastated Mr Leckie told the Globe this morning: "Everyone loves the Mermaid Trail and what has happened is distressing; we're speechless.

"I'm just hoping that there is CCTV of this and they catch who did it."

Rose added: "I don't know what the world's coming too, when people do something like this."

The statues, which bring the legend of the Black Rock Mermaid, to life were unveiled to the public in June last year.

Created by Barry Canning-Eaton, they had been individually decorated, five of them by schools and a community group.

The statues are accompanied by information boards which takes followers through a story based on the legend of the Black Rock Mermaid who is said to have appeared to a local sailor in New Brighton during the 18th century.

Starting from Kings Parade the first statue is next to the Championship Adventure Golf and moves on to Victoria Road and Atherton Street close to the town's train station.

Other locations include Seabank Road, the promenade and Victoria Parade.

The project was made possible after a successful bid for £10,935 to the Burbo Bank Extension Community Fund by the New Brighton Coastal Community Team.

Commenting on the statue's destruction, Cllr Paul Stuart, cabinet member for law and order, said: "I'm saddened this morning to hear the news of criminal damage to one of our mermaids on the New Brighton Mermaid Trail in Vale Park.

"Merseyside Police are currently investigating the situation and our parks teams are cooperating accordingly. 

"A small section of the park has been cordoned off to visitors for safety reasons temporarily while officers complete their enquiries, after which the area will be cleaned up by our parks staff.

"The Mermaid Trail is a much-loved community project led by hundreds of volunteers.

"While acts of damage like this will not be tolerated, rest assured our mermaid will live to tell another tale. This is not the end of the story.”

Globe columnist Peter Grant said: "The six Mermaids are one of the most innovative tourist attractions New Brighton has seen evolve in recent years and they are a wonderful compliment to the beautiful, iconic Lighthouse.

"To see one of these creative creatures vandalised has sickened me and all of those from the council and the talented individuals and local school children who worked on this project.

"This piece of environmental thuggery in Vale Park has to stop and the community are right to urge anyone who knows about this senseless destruction to come forward and report anything they have seen.

"I am sure this Mermaid will rise again thanks to the dedication of the spirited people who made them happen in the first place."

Community policing inspector Paul Harrison said: "We are making enquiries to establish the circumstances of this incident but it initially appears to be a deliberate, and may I say disgraceful, act of vandalism, which has destroyed part of a popular local attraction.

"People of all ages love walking and discovering these sculptures and to ruin this in such a way is heartless.

"I would urge anyone with information or who witnessed anyone acting suspiciously in the area of Vale Park last night to come forward with any information as soon as possible.

"We are determined to find those responsible and put them before the courts."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the social media desk @MerPolCC, call 101 with reference number 30 of 17 August, or you can call or the independent charity @CrimestoppersUK anonymously, on 0800 555 111.