RACIALLY aggravated graffiti scrawled on the side of a church and two businesses has been slammed by residents and business owners.

Becky Champion, landlady at the Exchange pub, in Southchurch Road, stepped out on Sunday morning to help scrub the graffiti off the windows of the Southchurch Christian Fellowship centre, Izod and Burnip hardware store, and Tesco Express. 

The graffiti, which read “this is a Muslim area”, is now being investigated by Essex Police as racially aggravated criminal damage. The force is appealing for any witnesses to come forward. 

Echo: Targeted - Izod and Burnip Ltd was also affected, although the owner declined to comment.Targeted - Izod and Burnip Ltd was also affected, although the owner declined to comment. (Image: Submitted)

The message was spray-painted on the business at roughly 7.20pm on Saturday. 

Ms Champion was left furious by the graffiti and insisted the Southchurch Road is a “diverse street” that welcomes all residents regardless of race or religion. 

She said: “To see someone commit such hateful behaviour is so heartbreaking. It makes me very angry.

“It’s incredibly disappointing. It doesn’t matter who you are  or your colour, creed, or religion – nobody should be treated like this.

Echo: Action - Becky and a colleague quickly got to work removing the 'worst' of the graffiti.Action - Becky and a colleague quickly got to work removing the 'worst' of the graffiti. (Image: Becky Champion)

“I spotted the graffiti on Saturday night, so a colleague and I went to remove the worst of it from the church because we didn’t want people to feel intimidated when attending Sunday Service the next morning.

“Ultimately, we wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable and not victimised.”
Ms Champion added the Christian Fellowship’s centre does “so much” for the wider community.

She said: “These guys work their socks off to do fantastic things for people in our community, regardless of their race or religion.

“It’s going to cost them time and money to remove this graffiti  that they haven’t got.

Echo: 'Heart-breaking' - the church centre helps the wider community.'Heart-breaking' - the church centre helps the wider community. (Image: Submitted)

“This mindless behaviour just drives me nuts.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking that one individual felt willing to spread their misguided beliefs across people’s properties.”

Project Southchurch founder Rob McAvoy described the vandalism as “absolutely awful” and is reaching out to the Muslim community to “reassure them we are together”. 

He added: “We believe it was a one-off incident by one idiot, but we have got to reassure residents and business owners.

“It’s absolutely awful for businesses to be targeted in this way.”

Echo: Graffiti - the Tesco Express store was also targeted.Graffiti - the Tesco Express store was also targeted. (Image: Project Southchurch)

James Courtenay, councillor responsible for community safety and public protection, said: “Southend is a vibrant and diverse city where differences are celebrated, and people feel safe to be themselves. Hate crime has no place in our welcoming and inclusive city. It is an affront to the values we hold dear.

“Our Community Safety Partnership which includes the police is working tirelessly to raise awareness, offer guidance, and shed light on the vital services offered by the Hate Incident Reporting Centres which are listed on our website.

"It’s crucial that people tell us when these incidents happen so that we can investigate as hate crime can have a devastating impact on victims and the local community. Nobody should live in fear of abuse or harassment, and we are working closely with our partners to make sure that is the case."

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are investigating a report of racially aggravated criminal damage after graffiti was left on several properties in the area of Southchurch Road, Southend, on Saturday. This graffiti consisted of messaging concerning a specific religious group.

“Our officers will always work to engage with all of our communities across Southend and wider Essex, to ensure they feel safe and confident in reporting any issues to us.”