FIVE Irish cyclists due to visit St Helens for a charity cycle ride in memory of the Hillsborough victims have had their bikes stolen outside Anfield.

Merseyside Police confirmed five bikes were stolen from a van parked near the ground while the group were on a tour of Liverpool FC's stadium on Saturday.

The group had been planning to join others in the Ride For The 96 starting at the Sutton Leisure Centre, which held a similar event last year.

The BBC reported that one the victims Liam Mulcahy, 34, said the group from Limerick were "shocked" at the theft.

According to police, the five cyclists had left their white van parked at the Walton Breck Road end of Venmore Street at around 10.15am while they went on a tour of the stadium.

When they returned shortly after noon they discovered a window had been smashed and the driver's side door forced open.

Also stolen were the group's luggage, including a number of t-shirts with the charity's name on them, passports, the van's sat nav and cash.

Chief Inspector Chris Hitchell, from Liverpool North command team, said: “This is an absolutely terrible thing to happen to anyone visiting our city but it is made worse by the fact that this group are here to raise money for charity and a cause which is dear to so many Liverpudlians' hearts.

"Everything possible will be done to identify the offenders responsible for this despicable theft and I would call on people within the local area to help us get these bikes back quickly. "All five are very distinctive and I would urge anyone who knows where they are being hidden or offered for sale to do the decent and honourable thing and call the police or Crimestoppers.

"The victims have travelled all the way over from Ireland to raise money for the families of the Hillsborough victims and they are understandably distraught at what has happened.

“We and the community will do whatever we can to help them so that they can still take part in tomorrow's ride."

Descriptions of the stolen bikes and other items have been circulated to all police patrols in the area and officers are appealing for anyone who is offered bikes or belongings matching the following descriptions to call the police immediately.

* red and black Verenti bike

* black, red and white Giant 'Defi X2'

* red and white Giant 'Defi X2'

* blue and white Giant composite

* pink and black Turas with the name 'Sophie" on the frame.

Call St Anne Street CID on 0151 777 4065 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.