POLICE on the hunt for revellers who took over a church for an illegal rave have taken the unusual step of releasing images of 133 people whom they wish to interview.
More than 200 partygoers defied Covid restrictions to crowd into the redundant All Saints’, East Horndon, near Brentwood, on New Year’s Eve (News, 8 January). The Grade II* building was damaged, and, when police arrived, they found the doors barricaded. Inside, they were verbally abused, spat at, and pelted with objects.
Chief Inspector Ant Alcock, of Essex Police, said: “Those who attended the event were selfish and had not thought of the risk of spreading Covid-19, nor had any respect for the historic building they were in.
“Issuing these images highlights the seriousness of the incident and public-health threat it posed. At the time, Essex was under Tier-4 regulations; infections were rising quickly; a ‘major incident’ had been declared because of the pressure on our NHS; and, nationally, there were around 50,000 positive tests a day.
“This event wasn’t just a clear and blatant breach of the regulations, but a very real public-health risk — as well as a slap in the face to all those making sacrifices to do the right thing. Added to that is the damage they caused to the church itself.”
The rave organiser has already received a £10,000 fixed penalty notice, and four people have been arrested for drug and public-order offences.
Since the images were released last Saturday, eight people have been identified, including one who came forward voluntarily.
Since the incident, an appeal has raised almost £25,000 to clean and repair the church, which dates from Tudor times and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Canon Paul Hamilton, whose parish of Ingrave includes All Saints’, said: “The public response was incredible. People were outraged at a church being desecrated. We felt cheeky asking for £2000, but we had that within hours. We even had to cancel a clean-up date because we had more volunteers than the numbers at the rave, which would have breached Covid restrictions. We had to get in a cleaning company.
“We have had so many generous offers from companies to do the security, replace windows and locks, and so on, for free. It has restored my faith in humankind.
“To those that broke into our church and messed it up, we extend the hand of forgiveness and friendship — but please don’t do anything that silly again.”
To see more images, visit: www.essex.police.uk/ume