Alarms due to be fitted the week after church theft

Lead has been stolen from St Bartholomew Church in Groton''Pictured: David Lamming - Church Secretary ANL-150610-154106009
Lead has been stolen from St Bartholomew Church in Groton''Pictured: David Lamming - Church Secretary ANL-150610-154106009
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Another community has been left reeling after a ninth church since the end of August was targeted by lead thieves on Friday.

St Bartholomew’s Church in Groton was the ninth church to be hit since August 23.

The latest incident is thought to have taken place between 5pm Friday, and 9am the following morning.

Removing lead from the roofs of churches across the county, this time the thieves damaged stone buttresses while stripping the main roof.

The latest theft was discovered by the husband of the church warden, who spotted pieces of lead and indentations in the grass outside the church on Saturday morning.

“It’s disturbing and it’s annoying,” said church secretary David Lamming.

It is believed that the culprits may have been disturbed and fled. Despite this they still got away with 40 per cent of the lead from the north aisle.

In a sad irony, the church was due to be fitted with new alarm system this week.

The alarms will still be fitted, but Mr Lamming said it was now a case of “after the horse has bolted”.

“We hope they won’t come back. We are taking various precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Architects are assessing the damage but Mr Lamming was confident it would not amount to as much as had been suffered by some of the other churches targeted.

“You can’t see the roof from the ground level. I think that’s why some of the churches didn’t realise until a few days later when it flooded,” he said.

“We are fortuitous that it was dry and we saw it early.”

Already workmen have been up to cover the stripped area in tarpaulin.

The Grade I, 15th century building - which has close links with the Founding Fathers in the USA - is the latest in a string of historic churches in the county targeted by metal thieves in recent months.

Other churches that have been targeted include Lavenham, Combs, Parham, Dennington, Hundon, Stratford St Mary, Hawkedon and Chevington.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “I am saddened and shocked to hear of another church in my constituency being targeted by lead thieves.

“These criminals are callously hitting church after church, stripping them bare if they are able, targeting what is for most people a symbol of compassion and community, but for them an easy and vulnerable target.

“At our party conference in Manchester I discussed the theft with Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, and the other Suffolk MPs, and there is strong feeling all round.

“Tim assures me that the police are doing all they can with a senior officer now allocated to the investigation. We must hope for progress on that front and also look to some of the longer term issues such as ensuring local churches are fitted with alarms.”

Mr Lamming believes the lead may be stolen ‘to order’ and is being shipped out of the country.

He is urging residents to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity, certain that the thieves must be staking out targets beforehand.

Any information should be passed on to Suffolk Police by calling 101.