A STATUE of the Virgin Mary that was stolen from outside a Poole church has been returned.

The four feet six inches tall statue was swiped from its concrete plinth outside St Matthias, Ringwood Road, earlier this week.

However, it was returned by Dorset Police after being recovered from a property in Poole.

A Dorset Police spokesman confirmed enquiries were ongoing and no arrests had been made to date.

Meanwhile, Rev Jonathan Martin said: "We run the church and a wellbeing centre. My eldest son was taking an early morning personal training class, and in wandered a police officer with the Virgin Mary stuffed under his arm.

"So here she is, she's back home. We'll put her back on her plinth and hopefully people have been shamed into never nicking her again. I'm surprised they took her once."

Speaking straight after the statue was stolen, Rev Martin said: "She was cemented into the plinth and she served as a sort of shrine for the publics’ prayers.

"I’d imagine that she’s not worth very much, but she has value to us and to those who come to the church.

"She was given to us as a gift, and as such she is very precious to us.

"She has been sat there for three or four months quite happily.

"However, this morning we realised she’d been taken during the night."

Although the statue had been set in concrete on the plinth, thieves didn’t cut it off at the feet, but instead dug into the concrete and removed it in its entirety.

Rev Martin said the figure is important to many parishioners.

"We are based on an industrial estate and a lot of the people who come to visit the church are from Eastern Europe," he said.

"Many of them are away from their homes, and the Virgin Mary is important to them.

"She’s a common religious figure shared across different countries and cultures."