Church silver worth £8,000 disappears in Royal Mail postal blunder
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A special delivery of silverware which was meant to replace £70,000 of artefacts stolen from a Suffolk church has got lost in the post.
The congregation of St Peters Church Copdock and Washbrook has suffered a double blow after burglars stole the silverware and the Royal Mail then lost part of its replacement worth £8,000.
Church treasurer Mike Osborne said: 'We've been massively let down. People have spent hours and hours tracking it down but it's got us nowhere.
'All we've done is spent a huge amount of money calling Royal Mail's premium rate complaints line.'
The church was burgled in October 2017 when thieves broke a tombstone to smash through the vestry window and dragged out a safe containing the valuables.
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Items stolen included a 17th Century claret jug worth an estimated £8,000 as well as three silver chalices and a silver flagon.
Although the safe was later found abandoned in a country lane none of the items were recovered and no one has been arrested.
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Church warden Ruth Lincoln said 'We were all devastated. It wasn't just the burglary - it was the damage they caused.'
The church had to fix the damage, upgrade security and deal with its insurers to receive half of the £70,000 insured value back for replacements.
Mr Osborne said it took months to find a silversmith to quote for the work - but eventually they found someone to produce a matching set of items, which could be used in church services.
Anvic Silver in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter made the items, which it sent via Royal Mail's Special Delivery service.
Two consignments arrived safely at Mrs Lincoln's home last December but there was no sign of the third.
In January the church asked the silversmith when the final delivery would arrive - only to be told it had been sent on December 17.
Mr Osborne said when he called Royal Mail at Ipswich to ask what had happened he was told the parcel had been sent to the Returns Office in Belfast where it would be kept for 30 days before going back to the silversmith.
He was then told it had been sent to another office in Doxford Park, Sunderland, where returned parcels are opened to try to identify the sender.
'But then it disappeared off the system,' he said. 'Somewhere between Northern Ireland and Doxford it just vanished.'
The church spent several days trying to find out what had happened to the missing parcel - and what could be done to get it back.
'Every time we called the Royal Mail, they'd give us a different answer,' said Mrs Lincoln.
'The first time we were told it had probably been destroyed, then we were told it had been auctioned off.
'We've spent so much money on phone calls.
'How can any organisation with Royal in their name be so incompetent?'
Silversmith Robert Pritchard-Gordon, who made the items, has also been frustrated trying to get an answer from Royal Mail.
'I think they've been appalling,' he said. 'By the time I had managed to speak to someone on the phone, rather than an automated voice, I was told it has been disposed of or destroyed.
'I thought 'What on earth has happened here?''
As the church has not received full delivery of the items Mr Pritchard-Gordon has yet to receive any payment from the insurance company.
'We are a fair bit out of pocket,' he said. 'And with the prospect of having to remake the missing piece, which will cost another £6,000, it's not been easy.'
A Royal Mail spokesman said its customer team had been in touch with Mr Osborne and Mrs Lincoln.
'The team have spoken to Mr Osborne and to the jewellers in Birmingham to explain that they are doing all they can to locate the items,' the spokesman added.