VANDALS have “disrespected” graves by smashing flower pots and put a Grade I listed church at risk by attempting to set fire to paper in its porch.

St Michael’s Church on Church Hill, Ramsey has been targeted three times in a week.

Volunteers have now offered to keep watch on the church and police will be patrolling past.

The Rev Canon Margaret Shaw, team rector of Harwich Peninsula churches, said she was saddened by the vandalism.

She said: “Last Thursday morning an attempt had been made to start a fire in the porch of the church using some of the paper from the notice board.

“Also, when we came into the church a little bit later we found a hole in the window where a stone had been thrown.

“Then it would appear on Friday evening there had been another attempt had been made to light a fire in the porch and also a bench at the back of the church had been vandalised and completely destroyed.”

The damage in the churchyard has also included between six and 12 graves being targeted. Mrs Shaw said: “There has been desecration of graves, the families see it as a desecration, with the pots broken and flowers removed.

“It’s so sad, why does that give someone pleasure?

“It’s meant to be a place of quiet and reflection and for someone to come and do that seems mindless.

“It’s very upsetting for the families.

“There is a lot of sensitivity around the graves and it’s very disrespectful to the family and the deceased.

“These items are put there as a tribute.” It’s hoped with extra visibility at the church the incidents will stop.

Mrs Shaw said: “We had been thinking of having the church open and unmanned but there is no way we can do that now, which is a shame.

“The porch has always been left open as a place to sit and rest, we are now thinking maybe we should close that.

“The devastating impact it could have if a fire took hold in the porch, it would burn down the ancient door and destroy the beams.

“Whether it would have spread to the church, who knows, but it would devastate the church if it did - the church is Grade I listed and people have such fondness for the church.”

Firefighters were called to a small fire near the church on June 28, which was recorded as arson and passed to police for investigation.

A spokesman for police said enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting the crime reference number 42/102220/19 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.