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You could have had food for free, church thief told

09 June 2023

St John’s, Balby

A still from the church’s CCTV

A still from the church’s CCTV

A THIEF has caused hundreds of pounds’ worth of damage by repeatedly smashing his way into a church foodbank, when he could have turned up at the door and been given the supplies for free.

In seven early-morning raids since March, the thief has ripped off a window guard and shattered a stained-glass window, before rifling through food donations and stuffing items into a backpack.

Volunteers at the multibank in St John the Evangelist, Balby, in Doncaster, have become distressed at continually having to sweep up shards of glass and put back items pulled out of cupboards and knocked off counters. One volunteer, Susan Burgess, sent a message to the intruder: “Please stop, just queue up like everybody else. You don’t need to do this. It’s totally unnecessary, we will help you in any way we can.”

The operations manager of the Given Freely, Freely Given bank, Andy Unsworth, said: “Every time we have to pay out for boarding up, we have the excess to pay on our insurance. It’s £100 each time, which we could use for other stuff in this parish. We think the thief takes bags of crisps and milk — something we give freely each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday anyway.” Mr Unsworth suspects that the thief is selling on the stolen goods.

The Assistant Curate of St John’s, the Revd Derek Pamment, said: “I’d love to meet this individual, to pray with him, work through his issues, and get him the support he needs. Stained-glass windows are very hard — and expensive — to replace. The cost of the damage is now far beyond anything that they will have gained from doing this. It just shows a lack of respect.”

The multibank is in one of the most deprived parishes in the country, which has the highest number of reported cases of domestic abuse. The scheme was launched in 2015, and has expanded its services since the pandemic: it seeks to improve access to basic necessities, reduce isolation, and boost well-being. One of its themes is that everything that it receives is given freely, and freely given away. No questions are asked. The gifts range from food to household items and electrical goods.

Professional organisations also offer sessions at the church on issues such as benefits, housing, and abuse. There is a free café.

South Yorkshire Police said that it was investigating the incidents.

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