Rural Suffolk communities ‘key to cracking lead theft cases’ say police after Hundon church became sixth victim

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof.

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof. - Credit: Archant

Police are calling on villagers to report any suspicious activity around churches, day or night, immediately.

The stripped roof at Hundon Church

The stripped roof at Hundon Church - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s rural communities have a “key part” to play in “cracking the case” and putting the church lead thieves who have caused around £400,000 of damage in jail, the police have said.

The county’s rural crime officer, Pc Mark Bryant, has called on people to forget fears of “wasting police time” as last week’s attack on All Saints Church, Hundon, puts the tally to six churches in one month.

The incidents, which started on August 23 when thieves left St Mary’s Church in Combs, near Stowmarket, with a £150,000 bill, are being linked by the police, with the thefts believed to be committed by one criminal gang.

Pc Bryant said: “The key to cracking this case is getting vehicle registration numbers, and the best way to get these is if those visiting the churches report absolutely anything out of place or suspicious.

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof.

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof. - Credit: Archant

“If someone spots anyone maybe looking at the roof or just thinks they look suspicious, they should phone 101.

“The criminals will be carrying out reconnaissance on the churches, maybe two weeks or so before the attack.

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“If anyone reports someone, and more importantly can get the number or even a partial number of their vehicles, they could crack the case wide open.”

He also stressed the importance of phoning 999 if anyone sees people or vehicles around a church at night.

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof.

Rev Stuart Mitchell is pictured at Hundon Church after lead was stolen off the roof. - Credit: Archant

“If you see people with torches around the church tell us,” he said. “That is a triple nine call.

“You are not wasting our time. We would rather get hundreds of false alarms than miss our chance to catch the thieves.”

The Reverend Stuart Mitchell, rector of the Stour Valley benefice which includes Hundon, near Haverhill, said the incident came just as parishioners were raising money for better facilities, including a toilet on site at the church.

He said: “Early assessments put the damage at around £25,000 to £35,000. It is a big bill that our insurance will not cover.

“We had just been looking into the costs of putting an alarm in, which would have been £5,000 – that is a large amount for a small parish like Hundon.”

The theft took place overnight on September 17 to 18, between 5pm-9am. Around 1,400 square feet of lead was stolen.

Phone 101 if you have any information about the thefts.

The thefts also took place in Lavenham, Stratford St Mary, Parham and Dennington.

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