A SCARBOROUGH woman who gave the North Bay a £50,000 sculpture broke down in tears after mindless vandals daubed the statue in paint.
The giant steel Freddie Gilroy and The Belsen Stragglers monument was covered in litres of yellow gloss after a sick attack.
A £500 reward was set up just hours after vandals struck for information leading to a conviction for the damage.
Public outrage and condemnation spread across Scarborough throughout the day as the reward grew past the £1,000 mark.
Scarborough Council have now cleaned the sculpture, but benevolent pensioner Maureen Robinson, whose sole generosity brought the statue to the town, was heartbroken when she visited the scene.
A tearful Mrs Robinson said: “I just cannot understand why anyone would want to do this, I’m absolutely heartbroken.
“I am just devastated and cannot believe anyone in their right mind could do something like this to such a lovely man.
“If Freddie could have seen this he would have been heartbroken too and my fear now is that it could happen again.
“There is just no comprehension of the meaning behind the statue by whoever has done this.
“They have obviously come with intent, you just do not come along with a tin of paint.”
The attack fell on Holocaust Memorial Day, making it even more poignant as Freddie Gilroy was one of the first soldiers to relieve victims of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
However, Mrs Robinson, who also recently bought a giant sculpture of a fisherman for Filey, said she had been buoyed by the public response.
She added: “I am quite optimistic and hope that something good will come out of it.
“There has been so many people who have shown compassion and it has caused so much feeling.
“It is lovely to know that everyone loved him and I just hope now that the perpetrators are named and shamed and brought to justice.”
Artist Ray Lonsdale, who painstakingly sculpted the statue, said he was equally shocked and devastated by the damage.
He said: “It just seems to be an act of mindless vandalism and I cannot imagine the hurt felt by Maureen, Jakki Wilby and everyone else who helped to bring the statue to Scarborough.
“You will never get into the heads of people these sorts of things.
“It is public art and that means it is available for all members of the public to appreciate.
“But it is not even like someone has gone along with a spray can looking for something to vandalise, it has been a deliberate act with some forethought.
“Whoever has done it had every intention of causing the damage.
“Freddie will come through this and the paint will come off, I just hope Maureen and everyone involved with the statue can come through the hurt and upset.”
Arts gallery ArtsBank, at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, which housed Mrs Robinson’s fisherman statue prior to its move to Filey, also condemned the attack.
A spokesman added: “We are really sad to hear that Freddie has been vandalised in this way.
“The response of help to clean it up has been fantastic and only goes to prove how loved and popular he has become in such a short space of time.
“Good art will always evoke powerful feelings in people good and bad.”
Scarborough police confirmed they were appealing for witnesses over the vandalism, which happened late on Thursday night.
Insp Tony Quinn, of Scarborough’s Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The statue is much loved by people in the town and many residents are very angry about this mindless vandalism.
“We will do everything in our power to find those responsible and are seeking the help of members of the public to help find the suspects.
“We are appealing to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area on Thursday evening, or anyone who believes they know who is responsible.
“We are also appealing to any shop owners who recall selling yellow gloss paint to anyone, any parents whose children or teenagers were out last night and may have had access to yellow paint, to please contact the police as soon as possible.
“It is vital that the people responsible are held to account for their acAtions.”
Anyone with information should contact the new 101 number, select option 2 and ask for Alex Parker.