A DISPLAY of sunflowers representing the lives of the people cared for by Forest Holme Hospice each year has been vandalised.

Supporters of the Poole hospice have been devastated by the damage caused to the sea of 1,000 flowers in Poole Park sometime between 6am and 7am on Sunday morning.

Forest Holme campaigner Chris Bullen has been sleeping in the park in a bid to stop vandals attacking the flowers.

But a message on Forest Holme's Facebook page said 12 flowers were broken, adding: "This was a heartless and needless act which is not only upsetting for those who have dedicated a flower to a loved one, but will also result in a financial loss of £300 for our charity."

Bournemouth Echo:

Picture from Forest Holme

It has been seen by more than 85,000 people - many of whom have expressed their sadness at what's happened. Some have even offered to buy to the broken flowers.

Ian Knight bought a sunflower in memory of his late wife Georgina who was cared for at the hospice before her death in 2001, aged just 51.

He told the Echo: "It's a senseless act. Perhaps these people had too much to drink and thought it was funny - but it's not funny, when it comes to people who have lost a loved one to cancer and experienced the wonderful treatment the hospice can bring."

He added: "It was such a wonderful symbol - why couldn't they just leave it there as a tribute - they've come in and wreaked havoc - it's just not fair."

Hannah Parsons, Fundraising Manager at Forest Holme Hospice Charity said: "We are completely devastated, not only for our supporters who have purchased one in memory of a loved one - but also it has a financial impact on the hospice as well. The violence with which they've been smashed is really upsetting."

She said the flowers would be left in place - but if another instance of vandalism occurred then a decision would have to be taken to remove them early.

The plastic sunflowers measure 35cm tall by 22cm wide and have been handmade by the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. They were installed at the start of this month, to remain in place throughout September.

They have been for sale for £25 each to raise funds for Forest Holme Hospice, which is part of the Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The hospice must raise £750,000 each year to continue providing specialist care for patients living with advanced cancer and other life limiting illnesses.