STAFF at a York charity shop have been stunned after a thief made off with the Baby Jesus from its Nativity scene.

The figure was stolen from a crib display in the window of the Its Donated shop in Lowther Street, The Groves.

Assistant manager Stephen Scott was dealing with another customer when he noticed a young man near the window last Friday afternoon, said charity spokesman Gordon Campbell-Thomas.

"He moved away and then left the shop," he said. "Later when she went to the front of the shop, she noticed that the figure of the infant Jesus was missing.

"It seems hard to believe but unfortunately it is true. This alarming and outrageous act took place in broad daylight a week before Christmas."

Mr Campbell-Thomas, who was away in mainland Europe at the time of the theft, said: “When Bron phoned me with the news, I couldn’t believe it, I know we have had a number of thefts this year, but for someone to stoop that low beggars belief, but this will not stop us in our efforts to help create a better world.

"The theft has upset all the volunteers staff as it is incredible that someone should steal from a charity shop but it is really reprehensible that someone should steal the Infant Jesus from the crib."

Mr Scott said: “I was heartbroken. We had gone to the trouble to get the Nativity set in the first place and had put it in our window to reflect the coming joyful event of Christmas.

"To have this happen has been a blow to all in the shop and no doubt everyone who reads this. Perhaps in a perverse way, it shows the reality of human nature, and turns our thoughts to the real meaning of the event that happened 2,000 years ago, which took place at the same time as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

"I can only hope that the person who did this despicable deed sees the error of their ways and returns the figure of the Infant Jesus."

North Yorkshire Police confirmed it was investigating the theft of the baby Jesus and inquiries were on-going to trace the suspect.

"The incident occurred at about 2pm on Friday when an unknown white man entered the premises and made off with the figure," said a spokesman, describing the theft as 'cruel and vindictive.'

He said: "Someone out there knows who was responsible for this crime and may even have been offered the figure for cash. If you can help, please do the right thing and come forward as soon as possible."

Can you help?

Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, quoting reference NYP-21122015-0070.