AN ORGANISED criminal gang is believed to be responsible for a spate of lead thefts from three churches in Bath.
Damage running into six figures was caused at St Thomas á Becket’s, Widcombe, All Saints’, Weston, and St Michael’s, Twerton-on-Avon. The Grade II All Saints’ was targeted three times over Christmas and the New Year, while the latest robbery took place at the Grade II* St Michael’s, two weeks ago.
The first theft at All Saints’ disrupted their carol service. The Rector, the Revd Thomas Yacomeni, said: “It was quite a stressful day. Someone told me the lights were shorting and water was dripping through the fittings. When I investigated, I found a third of the lead had gone. I managed to cover it with my caravan ground-sheet, and we put up some temporary lights — fairy lights in the toilet.
“Then, just after New Year, we had a second visit when another third went, and the rest was taken shortly after that. We have made temporary repairs, but water is still coming in. Last Sunday, the plasterboard ceiling collapsed.
“I suspect it’s one gang doing it all. Churches are a soft touch, and they know that churches are forgiving. We did consider putting up a notice saying: ‘Please make your way down to the office — we’d rather give you cash than you take our lead. It is cheaper.’ We’d rather be spending money on serving our community and helping people in the economic crisis than replacing our lead.”
The Vicar of St Thomas à Becket’s, the Revd Timothy Buckley, told BBC TV West that the theft had caused “catastrophic” damage. “We had water pouring in, damaging all the robes, the carpet was soaked, and it was pouring down the walls.”
At St Michael’s, a roof alarm installed after a lead theft several years ago failed to deter the gang. “It was the middle of the night, and, by the time I got round there, about half the roof had been taken,” the Team Rector, the Revd Richard White, said. “We are in an area of deprivation, and this cuts across our main purpose. We don’t have the time or the resources to deal with it. It is a huge distraction. Because we are Grade II* listed we have to put lead back so we are just waiting for it to happen again.”
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said that no arrests had yet been made, and asked for any witnesses to contact them.