Theft of silverware and records from Whitton church was ‘attack on community’
PUBLISHED: 19:48 31 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:09 31 December 2017
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Hundreds of records of births, deaths and marriages in a Suffolk community have been stolen from a church along with silverware worth “many thousands” of pounds.
A gang of thieves broke in to St Mary and St Botolph’s church in Whitton, Ipswich, before this morning’s services and took a safe containing the valuables.
It comes soon after a previous break-in when the safe was knocked over but not taken. Revd Mary Sokanovic, the priest in charge, said she believed the same criminals had returned in greater numbers to lift the heavy safe.
It contained silver religious artefacts, including an Elizabethan flagon, plates and chalices, worth “many thousands” of pounds. Hundreds of church records, including details of births, marriages and deaths have also been taken.
Revd Sokanovic said it had come as a “huge blow”.
“This is a heartbreaking crime. But we will not be beaten by these thieves, our service attended by 50 people went ahead this morning as usual, and we are working closely with the police on this,” she added.
“We are appealing for anyone who may see the safe dumped to contact Suffolk Constabulary, the records have no value to the thieves, but we would like to get them back for the church.
“The intruders damaged doors to get in and while we are insured for damage and theft, this is so heartbreaking.”
The burglary happened sometime between noon yesterday and 8am this morning.
The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, said: “This is a crime not just against the church but against the local community given how well St Mary and St Botolph’s is thought of locally.
“I appeal to anyone who knows anything about the whereabouts of the items stolen to come forward, some of these were given in memory of loved ones and a price cannot be put on them.
“Despite this setback, I know the Christian community in Whitton are resilient and will not allow this to prevent their ongoing service and worship.”
The Venerable Ian Morgan, Archdeacon of Suffolk, said: “I feel deeply for the people of St Mary’s and their priest The Revd Mary Sokanovic.
“They serve the community with great dedication and sacrifice, this is not a theft, it is an attack on people who care, who are there when people need them, they are there for young and old alike, in good times and in bad.
“That there are people who believe it is appropriate to act in this way and especially at this time of year is utterly reprehensible.
“I am grateful for the response of Suffolk Constabulary and would encourage anyone who knows anything about this to contact them urgently.
“In the meantime I know that the people of Whitton can be reassured that their parish church is there for them.”
John Howard, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, added: “Whitton parish church is at the heart of the community it serves making a real difference to people’s lives and an attack on the church is an attack on the community.
“This is a very sad incident and I would appeal for anyone who has any information or finds the discarded safe and can help officers, to call the police.”
Anyone with information should call Suffolk police on 101.