A MAN who handed himself in to police today in connection with damage to Wantage's iconic King Alfred statue has been released on bail.

Police said the 24-year-old was arrested and interviewed on suspicion of causing criminal damage after the right hand was chopped off the statue.

He was later released on police bail until February 23.

The statue, which has stood in the town's Market Square for 130 years, had its right arm bearing the battle axe cut off during the night of Sunday, December 30.

The attack was condemned by both Wantage mayor Lorraine Todd and residents.

The right arm bearing the battleaxe was left in pieces at the base of the statue.

Mrs Todd said the attack happened overnight on Sunday and Monday.

She has offered a reward of £300 of her own money to add to the town council's £200 for information leading to a conviction.

She said: "I feel this is an attack on the people of Wantage as the statue is the symbol of the town.

"I want anyone who knows anything about it to contact the town council as soon as possible.

"Whoever did it must have used a machine to cut off the arm - someone must know something about it.

"The statue is on a plinth and they would have had quite a climb to get to the arm."

The statue was commissioned by Col Robert Loyd-Lindsay to mark the 1,000th anniversary of King Alfred the Great, who was born in the town.

It was sculpted by Count Gleichen, a relative of Queen Victoria, and unveiled on July 14, 1877 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the future Edward VII and his wife.

Suzy Ditchburn, who lives in Ogborne Close, said: "This is terrible.

"The statue is a real icon of Wantage and I can't believe why anyone would want to attack it in this fashion.

"Pranks are pranks but this is terrible and I hope they can repair it as soon as possible."

Mrs Todd added: "I was extremely dismayed when I saw this had happened.

"This was an attack of wanton vandalism - it went way beyond being just a prank.

"Every New Year's Day someone does something to the statue but not in a damaging way.

"The repair to the arm will have to come from people's council tax and heaven only knows how much it will cost.

"We are offering a reward for information which will lead to a successful conviction although we have not yet had a meeting to decide how much the reward will be.

"I am appealing to the whole community to let us know who vented this destruction on the symbol of our town."

PC Lewis Boyce said: "Investigations have led to police securing evidence showing a group of young males climbing on the statue of King Alfred in Wantage. This happened just after midnight on Monday 31 December.

"The arm was damaged and it has been found in pieces on the ground next to the statue.

"It also appears a man and woman may have seen the incident and at the time confronted the men about the damaged statue. I would like to ask this couple to contact the police to help with enquiries and ask that the men responsible for the damage come forward."