An Ipswich parish priest has vowed to keep his church open despite a vandalism attack on one of its statues which now needs an expensive restoration.

St Mary at the Elms Church is in the heart of the town's business and legal centre - not far from the town's magistrates' courts building - and has always been kept open to be a place of peace and quiet for workers needing a rest in the middle of the day.

But the open-door policy also allowed the vandals - who were caught on CCTV - in to cause the damage.

Parish Priest Fr John Thackray said he and the church leaders were determined not to change that policy.

He said: "We want to keep the door open. It is very important to offer this little bit of peace and quiet. In fact we'd like more people to come and use it because the more people there are about the less likely it is anyone will cause this kind of vandalism."

The statue of St Mark is one of four that supports the church's font, it was carved in Victorian times and it has now been removed until it is repaired.

Fr John said: "The statue was just decapitated. It's the kind of thing one might have expected during the Reformation hundreds of years ago - but not what happens now.

"We have handed over CCTV to the police but the vandals were wearing hoods and I'm not sure it will be a great deal of use to them."

The church is seeking quotes for the cost of repairing the statute - the break at the head was fairly clean, but there was also some serious damage to the face of the saint.

The church is one of the best-known in Ipswich town centre and is home to a thriving Anglo-Catholic community.

But its open-door policy means it is almost as busy during the week as it is on Sundays.