Churchgoers arrive for Remembrance service to find roof stripped of lead
- Credit: Rev Peter Goodridge
A Remembrance Day service was marred by the discovery that thieves had stripped lead from the roof of a village church, causing inestimable damage.
Criminals struck under the cover of darkness – at some point between 7pm on Friday night and 9am Saturday morning – in Elmswell, near Stowmarket.
Members of St John’s Church came upon the desecration as they arrived to remember villagers who gave their lives in the First World War.
The church was the latest target in what appears to be a resurgence in thefts of lead from buildings across Suffolk.
Reverend Peter Goodridge, rector of St John’s, where a roof alarm – installed for the purpose of deterring lead thieves – was found smashed on Saturday morning, said: “We arrived for a short prayer meeting and a small service in our little garden of remembrance.
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“In the middle of the garden we noticed two bits of masonry.
“We looked up, thinking it could have been storm damage
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“However, upon walking inside the church, we saw daylight coming in through a part of the roof I knew to be the main area of lead.
“I suddenly realised I was standing in pools of water.
“It’s a carpeted area where we also keep a television screen.
“It’s too early to tell how much repairs will cost, but it could be tens of thousands of pounds.
“The fire brigade was superb and helped us make the roof water tight.”
Rev Goodridge promised it would be “business as usual” for Sunday’s main Remembrance service at the church.
Lead roofing was recently stolen from a building in Church Lane, Sproughton, and from Woodbridge Library, while St Andrew’s Church, in nearby Melton, was targeted overnight on Friday, November 3.
A police spokeswoman said officers were investigating whether the latest incident is linked to recent thefts.
In 2016 Samson Stancu, 20, of Deakins Road in Birmingham, was jailed for his role in stealing lead from a church in Cratfield, near Halesworth.
It followed a high profile campaign – Stop the Roof Raiders – launched by the East Anglian Daily Times and its sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press, the year before, after lead from about 40 churches across the two counties had been stolen.
Last year, churches in Yaxley, Great Glemham, Sibton and Polstead were all targeted within a few days.
Officers are appealing for anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area or has information which can help police to contact them on 101.