SEVERAL stone slabs have been stolen from a landmark church and neighbouring resident's home in what has been described as a "sickening" crime.

St Paul's Church in Ramsbottom is the latest church building in Bury to be targeted by thieves.

Stone flags from the rear and side of the property were stolen overnight, leaving gaping holes.

Rev Andy Lindop described the theft as a "massive inconvenience" and a "drain on church resources" which could be going towards helping members of the community.

The church secretary has reported the theft to Greater Manchester Police.

A small section of stone paving has also been stolen from the garden of Julie Skilton, aged 57, who lives next door to the church.

Her daughter Lindsey Isherwood, who lives in Major Street, said the theft was having a negative impact on her mother who is in poor health.

She said: "We want people to know that these flag thieves are around.

"It is ridiculous. It is going to get to the point where churches, and even graveyards, are going to need cameras. They will take anything that is not bolted down."

Multiple Yorkstone slabs were stolen from St Mary's Church in Radcliffe last month, and a church in Helmshore has also been targeted in recent weeks.

Miss Isherwood, aged 39, said she would be contacting Bury Council about the theft at her mother's property.

"It is really sickening, it is disgusting.

"I know it is only one stone that has been stolen from my mum's, but it is very scary to know offenders have taken some of her property. What happens if they come back for more? It is frightening for her, but to take it from a church is even lower than low."

Mrs Skilton has been a member of St Paul's for about one year, and her daughter Miss Isherwood has been attending for about six months.

She said: "It is a lovely church with lovely people. It is such a shame that their building is being ruined by these idiots."

A Good Samaritan has stepped forward to "patch up" the affected areas at St Paul's with temporary repairs.

A post on St Paul's Church Facebook page shared on Monday reads: "Sadly St Paul's has had visitors who decided to leave with keepsakes.

"Very heavy slabs have been taken from the rear of the church. Many thanks to the kind neighbour who is securing the site for us."