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Fleet church hit by lead thieves




Thieves stripped 80-90sq m of lead from the roof of St Mary Magdalene Church at the weekend.

Police believe the theft took place overnight Friday/Saturday.

Police say the thieves may have used "a heavy truck" to cope with the weight of the lead, and are appealing for anyone with information to contact them.

Peter Coupland (right) and parochial church council treasurer Peter Bush with the organ under sheeting
Peter Coupland (right) and parochial church council treasurer Peter Bush with the organ under sheeting

A passer-by alerted church officials, who covered the organ in polythene on Saturday to keep it safe until a roofing company sheeted the roof on Sunday.

Peter Coupland, who chairs St Mary Magdalene Church Trust, said increased security measures - including CCTV - are being considered.

Gill Graper, parochial church council secretary, said: "It's devastating. We are very hurt and upset about it and it's a huge amount of work to go through the process to get that lead replaced and being able to afford all of the costs."

The lower roof to the north aisle was stripped by lead thieves
The lower roof to the north aisle was stripped by lead thieves

She said it's not certain how much insurers will pay out.

"We have so many costs to keep that church going, it costs in the region of £25,000 a year," she said.

Funds are raised by a small group of people and Gill says the theft has come "almost as the last straw".

Her husband Peter is churchwarden and organist.

Rainwater got inside the church overnight Saturday/Sunday but Gill says wrapping the organ saved "huge amounts of damage".

The charitable trust chaired by Peter Coupland helps with the upkeep of the fabric of the Grade 1 listed building.

He was one of the team working to save the organ on Saturday as well as moving books to safety.

In the 1960s, as a 13-year-old lad, Peter helped his builder father and brother temporarily cover the same roof when lead was stolen.

Rural Dean, the Rev Canon Rosamund Seal, said the theft was "a huge blow for a small rural church, especially - coming as it does - so soon after the arson attack on the lych-gate that took place six months ago.

"I was with 15 members of the church community on Sunday morning leading a service for Candlemas and we relocated ourselves into the intimate space of the choir stalls, sung a couple of the hymns a capella, and the congregation rallied round to ensure that God was worshipped and the world was prayed for, despite the steady drip of rain into the puddles gathering on the floor of the north aisle."

On Thursday Lincolnshire Police said they had arrested four men on suspicion of conspiracy to steal and released them on bail as their investigations continued into more than 40 lead thefts across the county during 2019 and January this year.

Gosberton and Bicker churches were high profile victims but it’s not clear if they were among 16 incidents that police believe to be linked.

With regard to Fleet, a police spokesman said: “We would like to speak to anyone who may have seen or heard anything they believe suspicious in the area to contact us.”

l Call police on 101, quoting incident 118 of February 1.

A police spokesman said: "We would like to speak to anyone who may have seen or heard anything they believe suspicious in the area to contact us."

* Call police on 101, quoting incident 118 of February 1.

Also from www.spaldingtoday.co.uk

4 arrested over Lincolnshire church lead thefts

Lead thefts from Gosberton and Bicker churches are linked to others 'around the A1 corridor', police have said



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