A MAN who broke into 17 churches and caused tens of thousands of pounds damage has been jailed.
The man, Mihaita Rosca, smashed his way into most of the churches by throwing rocks through stained-glass windows,. Once inside, he ransacked them, looking for money or computers. He also stole cash from collection boxes.
His crimes started in Weymouth, Dorset, and then moved to Devon. He then moved to Suffolk, where he raided churches at Henstead, Beccles, and Ipswich, and then three more churches in London, including one where he used a rope to scale a wall to reach a courtyard.
Churches targeted included St Andrew’s, Ashburton, where £20 in cash was stolen and £200 of damage was made to stained glass; Holy Trinity, Exmouth, where £7500-worth of equipment was stolen; and Holy Cross, Crediton, where £1400 of damage was made to a window, internal doors, and floorboards.
He was caught because he left DNA or fingerprints. After his arrest, he gave police “treasure map”-style directions to find a buried loot in a field off School Way in Okehampton.
Mr Rosca, aged 26, who was born in Romania, admitted 13 burglaries in Devon and Dorset, and asked for three more in East Anglia and four in London to be taken into consideration.
He was sentenced to two years in prison by the Recorder, James Freeman, at Exeter Crown Court, on Monday.
Mr Freeman told him: “You had nowhere to go in this country and no money; so you chose to break into churches. These are places which are left with nobody in overnight and rely very much on voluntary staff to keep them running.
“They are operated on a shoestring and are obviously vulnerable to people like you. The damage done and property stolen run into thousands and thousands.”
The prosecuting barrister, Caroline Bolt, said: “We say that greater harm was caused by these burglaries because of the ransacking and the significant damage that was caused. The churches were seen as easy targets.”
Paul Grumbar, for the defence, said: “I asked him why he burgled churches, and he said it was because he knew there would be nobody there. There was no method. He was simply stealing to maintain himself.”