POLICE are hunting an intruder found asleep beside a church altar after apparently drinking beer and spirits intended for a fund-raising event.
Lisa James, a churchwarden of St Peter’s, Hinton on the Green, near Evesham, discovered the man on Saturday morning when she arrived to set up for Sunday’s service. He was curled up in a foetal position, and so still that she at first feared that he might be dead. Near by in the choir stalls were empty bottles of alcohol, empty food packets, and a jar of urine with a roll of lavatory paper on top.
Miss James immediately texted for help: “Is anyone available? Just gone into the church to set up for tomorrow’s service and someone is asleep by the altar. I don’t feel confident to be here on my own.”
Six people responded, including Clare Davies, the PCC treasurer and fund-raiser. She said that Miss James had “got the fright of her life”. The sleeper was clean and smartly dressed, and, at first, they decided just to send him on his way. But then they discovered that the drink had been taken, and called the police. The man denied taking or drinking it, however, and fled before officers arrived. Mrs Davies described the incident as “heartbreaking”.
There was no sign of forced entry, but all the locks have been changed, and a padlock was put on the porch door, which was always open as a place of sanctuary. Recently, the parish helped a rough-sleeper who slept there for six weeks, giving him food and bedding and even doing his washing. When he left, he thanked them, saying that they had saved his life. “They won’t be getting in again now,” Mrs Davies said. “It’s like a fortress. It’s sad we have had to do that.”
Meanwhile, local people stepped in to replace the drink so that the church’s “Barrow of Booze” competition could go ahead at the village fête on 3 July. “I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the village,” Mrs Davies said, “but we feel the sanctuary of the church has been violated.”
A spokesman for West Mercia Police said that their inquiries were continuing.