Lead theft church vigil

MEMBERS of a Barnsley church congregation have been staging all night vigils at the building after thieves stripped lead from the roof - for the fourth time in three months.

Tuesday, 25th September 2007, 8:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2007, 10:05 am

A 60ft piece of lead was plundered from St John’s Church in Penistone at the weekend leaving the listed building on Shrewsbury Road, open to the elements.

Now members of the congregation have taken to sleeping in the church in a bid to catch the thieves red handed.

A church member said: “It’s very distressing and it’s difficult to know what to do about it, it’s a very worrying time.

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“We find ourselves in possession of something that’s extremely valuable. We are victims of something that’s happening the other side of the world. The Chinese economy is in overdrive and prices for raw materials have shot up.

“We do feel as though we are under siege, I hope the police get lucky and catch them in the act.”

Church members estimate up to half the lead has now been stolen from the roof and there is no end to the epidemic in sight as the price of scrap continues to soar.

Police said in the last three months thieves had also stripped lead from churches at Wortley, Thurlstone and Silkstone, Millhouse Green School and Institute, lodges on the Wharncliffe Estate and Penistone Sports Centre.

Fortunately St John’s only suffered minor water damage following the most recent attack as the roof was quickly repaired.PC Andy Thompson said three men from Cheshire were arrested on suspicion of lead theft two weeks ago after being stopped with one-and-a-half tonnes of the metal in a van.

They had allegedly been digging up lead pipes in Thurgoland.

The men have been released on bail and will be questioned in connection with every lead theft in the Penistone area, he added.

He added: “It would appear that they are coming in from other counties, but I can’t say if it’s a one off or not at the moment.

“We have been monitoring scrap yards in Barnsley to see if the lead was being brought in in exchange for cash but it isn’t.

“If you see a van outside a church and men looking like they are doing roof work we’d be only too happy to check that they are legitimate.”

Anyone with information about the lead thieves is urged to call Penistone police on 01226 736240.