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Stop the Roof Raiders: Lead thieves strike Boxted church as total hit by suspected gang reaches 16 in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 March 2016

All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof.

All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof.

Lead thieves who plagued 15 Suffolk churches last year have struck again, causing thousands of pounds of damage to a small parish church.

All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof. Pictured is Rev Pat Prigg.All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof. Pictured is Rev Pat Prigg.

Lead thieves who plagued 15 Suffolk churches last year have struck again, causing thousands of pounds of damage to a small parish church.

Only one arrest has been made by police in the hunt for a suspected gang of thieves operating across the region, with the EADT and sister paper the Eastern Daily Press launching the Stop the Roof Raiders campaign in December last year.

The two papers, supported by other organisations, have offered a £26,000 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

The latest theft struck the 13th century Holy Trinity church in Boxted, south of Bury St Edmunds, in the early hours of Saturday March 12. 14 strips of lead were taken off the roof.

All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof. Left to right, Rev Pat Prigg and warden Richard Weller-Poley.All Saints with Holy Trinity, Braggons Hill, nr Boxted has had its lead stolen from the roof. Left to right, Rev Pat Prigg and warden Richard Weller-Poley.

The remote and small church has an average congregation of just 15 people and Reverend Patrick Prigg, rector of the Glem Valley United Benefice said the cost of an alarm would have been unsustainable.

“Putting my priestly hat on, I fear for the souls of the people that have inflicted this damage on the community and the church,” he said.

“I am waiting on a report by the warden but we are hopeful it will be less than the £5,000 to £7,000 mark. Without an alarm insurers cap the amount they will pay at around £7,000. I am hopeful the majority of the cost will be covered by the insurance.

“It is a very small church. We only have a small congregation from the village of about three people. It is a very popular wedding venue for people from all over, so we do have an average congregation of about 15 people over the year.”

After the spate of thefts last year, which caused a total of around £500,000 in damages to churches such as Lavenham’s St Peter and St Paul’s and St Mary’s in Combs, near Stowmarket, the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT) started giving £2,500 grants to fit alarms at churches, about half the installation cost.

However the £600 a year cost for a fixed term of ten years was not covered by the grant, something Rev Prigg said Boxted church’s small congregation could not possibly support.

“It is such a shame that a nearby guard dog wasn’t enough to deter the thieves,” said Martin Favell, chairman of the SHCT. “Fortunately most of our Suffolk churches with lead roofs have acted under the Alarms for Churches scheme to protect themselves with roof alarms and 110 Suffolk lead churches in all are now protected.

“However, there are still a small minority of church parochial parish councils yet to take up SHCT’s offer which is still open, but funds are running out so they should act quickly.”

The trust are holding a fundraising concert at Lavenham church on Saturday June 25 to support the alarm project.

Tickets cost £15 and £12 and are available by going to www.shct.org.uk. To donate to the trust visit www.justgiving.com/suffolkhct

If you have any information relating to the Boxted theft please call Suffolk police on 101 quoting reference 37/22165/16

Spate of lead thefts
Last year 15 churches in Suffolk were hit by lead thieves. Police suspect that a gang of criminals are operating in the region, with churches in Norfolk also hit.

Earlier this month a 20-year-old woman from Birmingham was arrested in connection with the theft of lead from St Mary’s Church in Cratfield, near Halesworth, which happened overnight on December 4 and 5 last year.

After being interviewed and spoke to about other lead thefts she was bailed to return to police in Suffolk on Monday May 16. No one else has been arrested in connection with the any of the 16 lead thefts in the county.

If you have any information relating to the thefts or the sale of stolen lead please phone the police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111

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