Stop the Roof Raiders reward winner donates it to Banyan Tree after conviction of Cratfield lead thief

From the heartless theft which brought misery to a small Suffolk community has come a charitable deed of international worth.

Stephen Peet, former treasurer at St Mary’s Church in Cratfield, near Halesworth, yesterday donated his reward for helping convict a lead thief to a charity working with disadvantaged people in India.

The reward was presented by EADT editor Terry Hunt as part of the Stop the Roof Raiders campaign led by the newspaper and its sister title the Eastern Daily Press to help protect the region’s churches.

St Mary’s was one of more than 40 churches burgled during the two years leading up to the launch of the campaign last December.

On a windy night earlier that month more than six tonnes of lead was taken from the Grade I listed 15th Century building, causing around £30,000 worth of damage.

Soon after the theft, Mr Peet spotted a glove and some fabric in a bush near the church. Suspecting it may have belonged to the thief, he used a sandwich bag to collect the items without contaminating the evidence and presented it to Suffolk police.

In August, DNA material taken from the glove helped secure the conviction of Birmingham man Sampson Sancu, then aged 20, who pleaded guilty to the offence.

Mr Peet said that as the reward had been offered to assist with the conviction, he was happy to donate it for other good work.

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Yesterday, he passed the money on to Sue Seabon, treasurer of the Friends of the Banyan Tree, based in the village, which uses the money to support projects in Kerala, southern India. Ms Seabon said the donation would help fund a teacher for the charity’s education project in Idinjar.

Mr Peet said he was pleased to support a worthy cause at Christmas.

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“We live in times of international uncertainty and at this time of year, it’s especially important for us to reach out to help people who are in need,” he added. “The Banyan Tree will be using the money to deliver education, which is fundamental to the world community.”

Mr Hunt has praised Mr Peet’s “quick-thinking and community-minded actions”, which led to the arrest. “He thoroughly deserves to receive part of the reward, which is now going to an excellent cause,” he added. “We hope that other people will follow Steve’s example and that we can look forward to further convictions of these people who bring such misery and anguish to our village communities.”

Leading figures who backed the EADT campaign have also praised Mr Peet’s actions.

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I was delighted to see this successful conviction which came about thanks to the eagle eyes of Mr Peet. Suffolk Constabulary does a great job but they need the eyes and ears of the public to help and this is a perfect example of the community working together to see justice done.

He added: “I was pleased to support the EADT’s bold campaign to help stop thieves from desecrating our beautiful, sacred and historic buildings and am equally pleased to hear of Mr Peet’s generous and kind decision to pass on his reward to benefit others who are less fortunate, particularly at Christmas time.”

Detective Sergeant Michael Gwyn said: “We are very grateful to Mr Peet for bringing the glove found to police attention, which proved instrumental in cracking the case.

“DNA and fibres from the glove led us to identify the offender, which in turn led to his arrest and subsequent conviction. This case shows how the support from members of the public combined with the dedication of our officers carefully piecing together key pieces of evidence can lead to a successful conclusion and we would like to thank Mr Peet for his help.”

The roof of St Mary’s Church has since been repaired, which Mr Peet said was thanks to “outstanding generosity” from the local community and beyond.

How the campaign began

The Stop the Roof Raiders campaign was launched in response to a spate of thefts from churches across the region.

Criminals carried out more than 40 church lead thefts across Norfolk and Suffolk in 2014-15, including 16 in Suffolk.

The theft from St Mary’s Church in Cratfield, was the most recent crime that preceded the launch of the campaign.

In a bid to stop thieves from desecrating the region’s 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, put up a bounty to help persuade people to come forward to police and help bring this devastating crime to an end.

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