A HOMELESS artist has spoken of his anger at one of his unfinished paintings being stolen from him as he slept.

Lee O'Leary is appealing for help in tracking down the acrylic depicting Brighton's Royal Pavilion.

He says it was taken from his usual sleeping spot at the doorway of Waitrose, at the junction of Western Road and Montpelier Road, Brighton.

The 39-year-old said he also had paintings stolen about two weeks before but this one was particularly important to him and he feared he was being targeted.

He said: "I woke up and it had been taken. It is the second painting of the Pavilion that I have done. The first one took about, I think, five or six weeks but then I scratched it because the lines weren't quite right. I had gotten this one to the stage the first one was at.

"I am getting the impression they are targeting us.

"Don't get me wrong, I am used to losing artwork but this one was a particular loss because it kind of symbolised to me a significant improvement in my artistic development."

Mr O'Leary, who lives outside with his five-year-old dog, Spot, said a witness had told him they had seen someone walking with the painting in Montpelier Road that morning.

He added: "I think they could be trying to discourage me and dishearten me.

"At the same time I am starting to get the impression that maybe they are taking them for the purpose of selling elsewhere."

Research has shown that homeless people are up to 13 times more likely to become victims of crime than other people.

A 2005 study found 67 per cent of the homeless had suffered a theft, whilst 1.4 per cent of all adults in England and Wales had done so.

Sussex Police confirmed the theft from Mr O'Leary had been reported to them on Tuesday September 1, and asked anyone with information about the theft, which happened between 7am and 7.30am on that day, to get in touch.

Contact 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call 101, quoting serial 548 of September 1.