A TERRIFIED cleaner was forced to lock herself inside a church hall as “brazen” youngsters tried to smash the door in.

The incident, at St Mary the Virgin church, in North Shoebury Road, is the latest in a spate of vandalism at the site of worship.

In the latest incident, which happened yesterday morning, a group of yobs smashed the glass of the front door.

A cleaner who was on site was left so scared she locked herself inside and says the youths then “antagonised” her from outside.

It is the third incident in recent weeks and comes after the church spent £1,200 repairing previous damage by vandals a week ago.

Craig Hunter, 64, who is the warden for the church and its small community, said the church was forced to dip into its dwindling repair fund to keep the hall functional.

Mr Hunter believes the attacks have been motivated by boredom and hopes the police can move quickly to restore a sense of security.

He said: “It’s scary and intimidating. This vandalism has to be for nothing more than to cause wanton destruction.

“We’ve spent £1,200 on repairs so far and on boarding up and glazing the front, but this incident is so soon after the last one our insurers may look at us and say they cannot pay.

“This morning the gang was disturbed by a cleaner. They had smashed the door in and she was so scared she locked herself in the church hall. They then stuck around the hall, they were so brazen.

“They were antagonising her before they ran away.”

Mr Hunter said the church team felt helpless.

He added: “We can’t do anything about this and though it isn’t life-threatening, I would imagine this group is going elsewhere and creating more of a mess.

“It has a real impact on us, we are a small elderly community without a lot of money and it is so frustrating to become the unfortunate victims again.”

Mr Hunter added that a recent wake that took place in the hall was forced to continue despite the smashed up front of the church, which “was incredibly upsetting.”