A SCULPTURE of a Bolton-born teenager has been destroyed by police armed with axes, concrete saws and ropes.

The artistic representation of Charles Cooper was erected in the coastal waters off the beautiful Maldives one month ago as part of a $1million project led by the Museo Atlántico — a collection of 300 underwater statues.

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But in the past few days, the 'Coralarium' has been destroyed under the orders of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who said the artistic installation was a plot by the 'Western-backed opposition' to undermine Islam.

Charles, aged 13, spent part of his early life in Carville Close, Hindley Green, but moved out to Lanzarote with his parents, Adrian and Zoe.

Two years ago, a sculpture of Charles — whose grandparents live in Westhoughton and Bolton — was submerged in the sea off the Playa Blanca holiday resort coast in Lanzarote as part of a £500,000 project by world-famous environmental sculptor Jason deCaries Taylor.

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The Museo Atlántico collection of 300 underwater statues is designed to create an artificial reef encouraging marine life to flourish and is ideal for viewing by snorkelers and divers.

Following the success of the installation and others around the world, Charles became part of the 'Coralarium' in the centre of the largest developed coral lagoon in the Maldives, on the island resort of Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi.

The artwork was to be a semi-submerged tidal gallery space that exhibited a series of 30 sculptural artworks on the skyline, inter-tidal waterline and seabed.

Charles underwent a two-hour process which saw him covered head-to-toe to create a plaster cast which was later made into a cement figure and fixed to the installation.

Grandfather Malcolm Ryding, who lives in Westhoughton with Charles' grandmother Barbara, said: "We were all so proud that Charles would have been part of the Maldives history for years to come. But that's sadly not to be.

“Demolition of the installation seems to be part of the national elections and aimed at 'courting religious vote'.

Charles other grandparents, Hazel and Martin Cooper, live in Bolton.

It was in 2006 that Jason deCaries Taylor founded and created the world’s first underwater sculpture park in the West Indies which is now listed as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.

Three years later he co-founded the Museo Subacuático de Arte — a monumental museum with a collection of over 500 of his sculptural works, submerged off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

And in London, his River Thames installation — The Rising Tide — attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Another installation in Oslo was opened last week.