Church targeted by professional crooks

By Dave GooderhamPROFESSIONAL burglars may have been behind a major raid on a church described as the “Westminster Abbey of Suffolk”. A host of priceless artefacts - including an altar table believed to be worth £25,000 - has been stolen from one of the county's finest churches, prompting fears they might be sold to an overseas private collector.

By Dave Gooderham

PROFESSIONAL burglars may have been behind a major raid on a church described as the “Westminster Abbey of Suffolk”.

A host of priceless artefacts - including an altar table believed to be worth £25,000 - has been stolen from one of the county's finest churches, prompting fears they might be sold to an overseas private collector.

It is the third time St Peter and Paul Church in Kedington, near Haverhill, has been targeted by criminals in just four years.


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Chruch vicar, the Rev John Ely, said he believed the burglars had known exactly what they were looking for in the latest raid.

“The whole thing does seem odd. It appears somebody must have known what they were doing and they must have known what they wanted,” he added.

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“The whole village is very disappointed, but the church is more than just bricks and mortar. Everyone is very sad, but there is a tremendous loyalty and life has to go on.”

Suffolk police have begun an investigation into the raid, in which a £25,000 Tudor altar table, a rare donation box, a 17th Century chair, lamps stands, candle sticks and a quantity of cash were stolen.

Mr Ely described some of the items as unspectacular, but priceless, and said: “The donation box dates back to when the church was Roman Catholic and coins were collected to send to Rome for the poor.

“It was just a tree trunk buried into the floor with cast iron fittings - but they actually dug it out of the ground.”

He added: “It was one of the most valuable things in the church as we don't believe there was anything like it in the country.

“It was an unspectacular item, but absolutely priceless - a national treasure, like so much else in the church.

“The poor box was buried in the ground and it seems strange that it should have been targeted as it is not the most beautiful thing.

“Also there are other better looking tables than the Tudor altar table - they must have known what they wanted.”

The raid failed to disrupt the big day of an unnamed couple who married on Saturday afternoon - within hours of scenes of crime officers conducting their investigation.

Mr Ely said: “Fortunately, the police were very efficient and the wedding went ahead. On Friday evening, we locked up the church after a wedding rehearsal.

“We double checked everything and made sure everything was secure, but when we went to check the flowers on Saturday morning we found the items had disappeared.”

The church, which has been listed among the top 200 in Britain, is renowned throughout the country for its tombs and the fact it has been untouched by Victorians through the 17th and 18th Century.

Former poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, described the building as the “Westminster Abbey of Suffolk”.

It is believed the burglars broke in through a back door between 8.15pm on Friday and 10am on Saturday.

A police spokeswoman said: “Some of the items stolen are very heavy and it was likely there was more than one person involved. It is also likely they would have needed some vehicle capable of taking these items.”

Anyone with information about the burglary should contact Haverhill police on 01284 774100.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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