22/05/2016 9:45 PM AEST | Updated 23/05/2016 1:58 AM AEST

Police Apologise After Winning Sandcastle Contest With Murder Scene

Critics say the sculpture was in "poor taste."

Cops in southwest England have been criticized for entering a crime scene-style sandcastle into a competition.

Officers from the Devon and Cornwall Police force depicted what appeared to be a naked female murder victim made from sand — with seaweed for hair and a plastic spade firmly lodged in her back — for the annual Cornwall Beach Games on Perranporth Beach on May 13. It was surrounded by police tape.

They scooped up first prize in the contest, but were later bashed for being "very offensive" after boasting about their victory on Twitter, reports the Exeter Express & Echo.

"I like a joke as much as the next person but this is a family beach event," local councilwoman Hannah Toms told the BBC, saying the sculpture was "trivializing" what was in fact "quite a serious matter."

"It missed the mark for me," Toms added to The Sun newspaper. "I think it is in poor taste." She said it may have reminded some residents of past experiences, given it's "a coastal community and people will have lost loved ones in the sea."

The sandcastle was met with mixed reaction on social media. Some users described it as "harmless fun," while others agreed it was "hugely insensitive."

Devon and Cornwall Police have since apologized.

"The sand sculpture competition was entered in good faith and no staff have meant to cause any offense," said a spokesman, adding that "if any offense has been caused by the nature of the sculpture, this was never intended and we apologize for that."