A CHARITY cyclist has hit out at thieves who stole his new mountain bike while he was at a church service.

Richard Horton, 38, of Clifton, York, left his two-week-old white Dawes Discovery padlocked outside St Anne's Church, in The Groves, York, on Monday night, while he attended the 9pm service.

But he returned to find his bike had been snatched.

Richard, a development manager at Nestl, said: "I'm shocked and disappointed that somebody could take my bike - especially from outside a church. I've enjoyed cycling since I was a lad. I only bought it a fortnight ago."

Last year, he rode more than 2,000 miles around New Zealand to raise money for child abuse charity Survive, and international Christian relief organisation Food for the Hungry. Previously he has cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats and exhibited his diary in York.

Richard is urging anybody who might have seen anything on Monday night, to contact the police.

He said: "It's quite a distinctive bike and I was quite shocked to lose it. I was planning to use it when I go on holiday in July."

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to phone North Yorkshire Police on 01904 631321.

Updated: 10:43 Wednesday, April 16, 2003