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Lead thieves leave churches in Freckenham and Tuddenham with huge repair bills

Freckenham church (12091588)
Freckenham church (12091588)

Two village churches have been desecrated by thieves who caused thousands of pounds of damage stealing lead from their roofs.

St Andrew’s Church, in Freckenham, was targeted in the early hours of Friday and vicar the Rev Canon Sandie Barton, said every last bit of lead had been removed.

“We have got tarpaulin up but unfortunately that is not completely watertight and, with the recent heavy rain, water has been pouring through and the medieval woodwork is taking quite a hammering,” she said. “But the community is rallying round and there has been an army of ladies mopping up. We are doing our best to keep our spirits up in what is a horrible situation and we are absolutely determined to keep the church open.”

She said she believed between £30,000 and £50,000 of damage had been caused. “We are not insured so we will have to try to raise the money for repairs through community fund-raising.”

Freckenham church (12091695)
Freckenham church (12091695)

Some of the lead stolen was recovered after police were alerted by a sharp-eyed villager suspicious of a car driving round the village.

The car, a BMW, was later abandoned in the driveway of villager Sam Huggan’s home.“We looked out of the window and saw someone get out of the car and walk towards a neighbouring farm,” she said.

“The car had been locked but you could see the lead rolled up on the back seat and it was so heavy the car’s tyres were almost flat,” said Sam. Police with dogs searched for the thieves but they got away across nearby fields.

A similar theft from Tuddenham’s St Mary’s Church, which dates from the 14th century, was discovered on Wednesday when water was spotted on the floor alerting church officials to check the roof.

Freckenham church (12091615)
Freckenham church (12091615)

A quantity of lead had been stolen from the south aisle, mirroring a similar incident 12 years ago when the same amount of lead was taken.

Church warden Kathryn Parker said the church would now be considering replacing the stolen lead with stainless steel.

Claire Walker, the chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said: “The inclusion of metal theft in the National Crime Agency’s 2019 strategic assessment is both disturbing and reassuring: disturbing, as it shows that metal theft is a crime that is increasingly being carried out by organised gangs who see churches as an easy target; reassuring, in that the UK’s lead agency against organised crime realise just how serious a crime metal theft is, and have made it one of their priority areas for 2019/2020.”

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