A FINE art student has put her hand up to a stunt that had people scratching their heads.

The Echo reported several weeks ago the statue of Queen Victoria in Clifftown Parade, Southend, had had its right hand amputated.

Then, equally mysteriously, 14 plaster hands appeared at the base of the statue late last week, pointing upwards to the handless monarch.

The second mystery, at least, has now been solved.

Laura Keeble, a student at South East Essex College, admitted she took pity on Queen Victoria and decided to use her skills to draw attention to the monarch's plight.

Miss Keeble, 29, of Cromwell Road, Southend, told the Echo: "I just wanted to see what it would look like, to see if people would notice. I wanted to respond to that missing hand and play with it.

"I have memories of her not having a hand before. It's almost as if she's not allowed to have a hand.

"It took quite a long time to make them. I was working flat-out all weekend. It was like a factory.

"They were all cast from my own hand. I wouldn't say my hand is fit for a royal, but it was my own hand."

The landmark monument is proving difficult to protect from vandals, as this is not the first time a hand has gone missing.

And Miss Keeble, says she is not sure the hand should be replaced again.

She said: "She is already pointing. There is a rod sticking out where her hand used to be.

"But I suppose a lot of people would like her to be whole again."