Burglars strike at seven churches
ANGRY officials have blamed seven raids on Suffolk churches in just one weekend on a "lack of respect for places of worship".Police are appealing for witnesses after criminals caused considerable damage to doors and windows and stole hundreds of pounds worth of items including collection boxes, electrical equipment and gardening tools.
ANGRY officials have blamed seven raids on Suffolk churches in just one weekend on a "lack of respect for places of worship".
Police are appealing for witnesses after criminals caused considerable damage to doors and windows and stole hundreds of pounds worth of items including collection boxes, electrical equipment and gardening tools.
The raids, which happened overnight between Saturday and Sunday, saw a range of churches in the mid-Suffolk area targeted.
Burglars hit the Holy Trinity Parish Church in Stowupland, St Mary's Church in Barking, Little Blakenham Church and St Mary's Church in Bramford.
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St Catherine's Church in Ringshall, St Mary's Church in Tattingstone and St Mary's Church in Offton were also targeted.
Margaret Blackall, tourism officer for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the raids signalled a lack of respect for churches and faiths.
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She added: "We are very concerned about this recent spate of burglaries. I think part of it is that there's less respect for places of worship these days.
"It's down to a decline in people's attitudes towards places where people worship and a decline in respect for people's spirituality.
"I find it interesting because I sometimes visit the London area where churches are kept open and in a beautiful condition in areas where you would expect there to be problems.
"But they are surrounded by people who have a faith - not necessarily Christian - but they respect a place of worship. We don't seem to have that kind of respect in rural areas."
Despite her concerns, Mrs Blackall appealed to parochial church councils in the region to ensure that churches are kept open for people seeking solace in prayer.
She said: "We don't want to be a closed shop. Usually what happens is that people do a vast amount of damage to a window or a door and once they get inside find there's nothing to steal.
"The last thing we want is to start locking up churches again. Take away the valuables, but keep the building itself open - it's very important."
Detective Inspector Louisa Pepper, of Suffolk police, said: "In some of the offences the offenders entered the buildings through unlocked doors but in others they have smashed windows and doors to get to the valuables inside.
"Unfortunately some churches are seen as soft targets due to their remote locations and the fact that they are sometimes left unlocked to allow visitors access.
"As such we would ask anyone who lives near a church to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity immediately.
"We would also like to hear from anyone who has information relating to these offences.
"Perhaps you live in one of the villages targeted and witnessed some suspicious vehicles or unusual activity?"
Anyone with information about the burglaries should call Stowmarket CID on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.