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Criminals target Hertfordshire churches

04 September 2015

ARCHANT

Shattered: the damage at St Mary’s, Hitchin, after vandals threw bricks at a stained-glass window

Shattered: the damage at St Mary’s, Hitchin, after vandals threw bricks at a stained-glass window

POLICE have arrested a man in connection with criminal damage at two churches in Hertfordshire on the same day last month.

One of the churches, St Mary’s, in Hitchin, was targeted twice — in the early afternoon and late evening of 25 August, when several thousand pounds’ worth of damage was caused by bricks thrown through stained-glass windows, including a memorial to local men who died in the First World War.

Earlier that day, glass at St Paul’s, Letchworth, four miles away, was also damaged.

Sgt Stephen Oliphant of Hertfordshire Police said that officers suspected that the attacks could have been “religiously aggravated”, and were also treating them as a heritage crime.

The Team Rector of Hitchin, the Revd Michael Roden, said that repairs would cost more than £10,000. “I’m sure when people hear about this act they will feel very upset,” he said. “St Mary’s is a symbol of the beauty, peace, and unity of our community. It’s also a place of prayer and hope in good times and bad.

“This is a setback, but we’re determined to keep this building open for everyone, and we’ve had tremendous public support. Nothing is going to deter us from our calling to be a warm, open, and thoughtful church serving a great community.

“The people responsible also very accurately threw a brick through a separate stained-glass panel of Jesus’s head.”

The suspect — a 38-year-old man from Letchworth — was arrested two days after the churches were vandalised, after incidents in Letchworth in which black paint was daubed on a number of locations in the town centre. He was later released on police bail, and is due to return on 23 September.

Burglary suspect sent for trial. A man arrested last week in connection with a break-in at St Petroc’s, Bodmin, in Cornwall, which resulted in damage estimated at £10,000 (News, 28 August), has been sent for trial at Truro Crown Court on a charge of burglary.

A member of the congregation gave the church £1000 towards the repairs, and shopkeepers in the town have launched a collection, which had reached £500 at the time of going to press.

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