A PROBE has been launched after a woman was raped in a horrifying attack in a graveyard.

Essex Police were called on Thursday night at around midnight by a woman claiming she had been raped in the graveyard of St John’s Church in Southend town centre.

A huge response was launched with police setting up a cordon around the entire graveyard throughout the day on Friday while officers investigated the incident.

The force said the woman was being supported by specialist officer and enquiries were ongoing.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We were called just before midnight on Thursday night with an allegation of rape.

“It was reported that the incident took place on July 15 in Southend.

“The victim is being supported by specialist officers.

“We are remained on scene at Church Road, Southend on Friday.”

Southend resident Ray Crudgington said more lighting and CCTV were needed in the area.

He wrote: “As someone who has joined St Johns Church recently, the graveyard is incredibly problematic with rough sleepers and drug users.

“There needs to be a plan with lighting and CCTV in conjunction with councillors and police.

In the meantime I am praying for the victim and for swift justice for the perpetrator.”

David Garston, Tory councillor and party spokesman for community safety, said he was “horrified”.

He said: “Words fail me really, that poor, poor girl. I hope police can find the criminal who did it.

“It’s unbelievable and it’s so close to the town centre.

“It’s right next to the Royals car park, the hotel, and it’s at the bottom of the High Street almost, and to be able to do that so near it’s just awful.

“It’s a shame that most people just want to get on with their lives.

“This poor girl will have this stay with her forever.

“It doesn’t matter how much increased security you have, you can’t be 100 per cent on everything. I’m not aware of a camera facing that particular site, but there should be.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information that could assist police’s enquiries should call 101 and quote incident 1575 of July 15.

You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or submit an anonymous report online at crimestoppers-uk.org.