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Churchgoers arrive for Remembrance service to find roof stripped of lead

PUBLISHED: 17:36 11 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:57 13 November 2017

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

Rev Peter Goodridge

A Remembrance Day service was marred by the discovery that thieves had stripped lead from the roof of a village church, causing inestimable damage.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

Criminals struck under the cover of darkness at some point between 7pm on Friday night and 9am Saturday morning in Elmswell, near Stowmarket.

Members of St John’s Church came upon the desecration as they arrived to remember villagers who gave their lives in the First World War.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

The church was the latest target in what appears to be a resurgence in thefts of lead from buildings across Suffolk.

Reverend Peter Goodridge, rector of St John’s, where a roof alarm installed for the purpose of deterring lead thieves was found smashed on Saturday morning, said: “We arrived for a short prayer meeting and a small service in our little garden of remembrance.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

“In the middle of the garden we noticed two bits of masonry.

“We looked up, thinking it could have been storm damage

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

“However, upon walking inside the church, we saw daylight coming in through a part of the roof I knew to be the main area of lead.

“I suddenly realised I was standing in pools of water.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

“It’s a carpeted area where we also keep a television screen.

“It’s too early to tell how much repairs will cost, but it could be tens of thousands of pounds.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

“The fire brigade was superb and helped us make the roof water tight.”

Rev Goodridge promised it would be “business as usual” for Sunday’s main Remembrance service at the church.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

Lead roofing was recently stolen from a building in Church Lane, Sproughton, and from Woodbridge Library, while St Andrew’s Church, in nearby Melton, was targeted overnight on Friday, November 3.

A police spokeswoman said officers were investigating whether the latest incident is linked to recent thefts.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

In 2016 Samson Stancu, 20, of Deakins Road in Birmingham, was jailed for his role in stealing lead from a church in Cratfield, near Halesworth.

It followed a high profile campaign Stop the Roof Raiders launched by the East Anglian Daily Times and its sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press, the year before, after lead from about 40 churches across the two counties had been stolen.

Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE Damage done by lead thieves at St John’s church, Elmswell. Picture: REV PETER GOODRIDGE

Last year, churches in Yaxley, Great Glemham, Sibton and Polstead were all targeted within a few days.

Officers are appealing for anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area or has information which can help police to contact them on 101.

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