EADT leads campaign to stop church lead raiders with £26,000 appeal fund

Lavenham was one of the churches targeted in Suffolk

Lavenham was one of the churches targeted in Suffolk - Credit: Gregg Brown

Stop the roof raiders was the plea today as the East Anglian Daily Times and sister paper the EDP announce a £26,000 reward to help protect our historic churches.

Stop the roof raiders was the plea today as the East Anglian Daily Times and sister paper the EDP announce a £26,000 reward to help protect our historic churches.

In a bold bid to stop thieves from desecrating these beautiful, sacred and historic buildings the EADT and EDP, with the help of other organisations, including the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, have put up a bounty to help persuade people to come forward to police and help bring this devastating crime to an end.

Criminals have carried out more than 40 church lead thefts across the two counties in the past two years, including 16 in Suffolk, with the most recent crime in the county happening at St Mary’s Church in Cratfield, near Halesworth earlier this month.

In a joint statement announcing the reward, Terry Hunt, editor-in-chief of the EADT and Nigel Pickover, editor-in-chief, of the EDP, said: “The EADT and EDP are proud to serve our great counties which are steeped in such wonderful history and heritage.

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“But part of that rich heritage is under attack from criminals who are desecrating sacred Suffolk and Norfolk churches by stripping them of lead and causing untold damage in the process.

“These roof raiders are not just damaging the buildings, the church and the congregations that worship there but entire communities across Suffolk and Norfolk.

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“And that is why your EADT and EDP are today launching the new roof raiders campaign to stop this sickening crime once and for all.

“As part of the campaign we, together with other organisations in the community, are offering a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for lead thefts.

“The campaign has been backed by church leaders but today we are calling on you, the communities of Suffolk and Norfolk, to be the eyes and ears that help us put an end to this dreadful crime and help us protect these precious buildings for current and future generations.”

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the diocese would be putting up £2,000 towards this “excellent campaign by our local newspapers”.

He said: “This is not a victimless crime, it affects communities and the congregations left with large repair bills, to address the damage to our churches.

“The church buildings of this county form part of the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world. As well as being magnificent examples of medieval architecture and artistry they are active places of worship and symbols in the Suffolk landscape of the enduring nature of our faith. The thieves who attack these buildings do not care about the damage caused to the building, or to the contents exposed to rain and weather, and they do not care about the communities who feel a little bit more vulnerable as a result of the theft.”

The scale of the problem of lead theft in Suffolk over the past few years was laid bare in figures released by Suffolk Constabulary under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws which showed there were a total of 81 lead thefts in Suffolk in 2010 and 2011, compared to 18 in the following three years.

Detective Inspector Karl Nightingale, of Suffolk Constabulary, which is supporting the campaign, said: “We have got a series of offences that have occurred and we are pursuing all lines of enquiry to identify who has committed them.

“We will pursue every avenue to bring the perpetrators to justice. The impact these thefts have is really far-reaching and devastating for the community.”

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