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Medieval monuments targeted by thieves

14 September 2012

MEDIEVAL monuments have been stolen from four churches in the south Midlands this year. This has led to the suggestion that an organised gang may be stealing items to order.

One of six reredos panels was stolen during a break-in at St Peter's, Drayford, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in March. In April, the head-section of a 14th-century effigy was stolen from All Saints', Newland, Gloucestershire. The effigy is said to be that of a priest, Robert de Wakering, who founded the church in the 13th century.

Weeks later, thieves chiselled out part of an effigy at St Michael's, Castle Frome, near Ledbury, in Herefordshire. The carving is thought to represent Adam de Lacy, who died in 1297.

Last month, a burial plaque, with a carved image of John de Breton, Bishop of Hereford between 1269 and 1275, was stolen from Holy Trinity and St Mary, Abbey Dore, also in Herefordshire.

The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. David Meara, this week suggested that an organised gang was targeting churches. "These monuments do have value to collectors of antiquities on the international art markets. There is a market for these things. My suspicion is that they are probably being stolen to order. . . It doesn't look like opportunistic thefts."

West Mercia Police described the Abbey Dore stone as "irreplaceable". A spokesperson said: "Local churchgoers are devastated by the theft of this stone, and we are very keen to find not only the stone itself, but also the individual or individuals responsible for stealing it."

The police say that inquiries are continuing, and urge anyone with information to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


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