A parish priest was simply lost for words yesterday after dispicable lead thieves struck his church for the second time in a week – making it the fourth theft in just nine months.
The sickening blow to St Mary’s Church in Narford, near Narborough, means lead theft gangs have now stolen around £30,000 worth of the metal from the centuries-old building since last summer.
The church is the third in the county to be targeted since the end of January, and police are urging communities to stay vigilant against the threat.
Officers have also stepped up night patrols in rural areas to try and deter offenders, and are following up “a number of lines of enquiry” to catch those responsible.
St Mary’s Church rector, Canon Stuart Nairn, said the latest attack on Sunday night was utterly demoralising.
“I’m at a loss for words, it’s just unbelievable,” he said. “They stole some (lead) last night (Sunday), and they stole some the previous Sunday. Who knows what they’ll take this Sunday.”
The two most recent thefts came just weeks after lead stolen during two raids in July and August last year was replaced.
The community had finally been able to save up enough money to pay for the repairs – and the cheque to pay the bill only went out on Wednesday.
Canon Nairn estimated the total value of lead stolen from the Narborough Road church to be around the £30,000 mark.
But he said replacement materials the church is now considering, in order to be less attractive to thieves looking to sell lead as scrap metal, are even more expensive to buy than lead.
Last week he said the church was hoping to convince conservationists to allow it to use different materials, although he fears the village’s small population of around 25 residents will not be able to raise enough money to fund repairs.
Grant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund is also out of reach as he said it was “nigh on impossible” for small communities to meet all the requirements.
“I’m not sure where we go from here, I really don’t,” he said.
All Saints Church in East Barsham, near Fakenham, was also targeted between Friday and Sunday, when lead from the roof, worth around £10,000, was taken.
And earlier in the year, lead was taken from St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Carbrooke between January 30 and February 19.
Crime Manager for North Norfolk and Broadland, Sergeant Toby Gosden, said: “We are actively targeting our patrols around rural churches in hours of darkness to try and deter offenders, as well as following up a number of lines of enquiry to catch those responsible.
“I would urge the public to be vigilant around rural churches and if they see anything suspicious to call 101, noting down vehicle descriptions including number plates and direction of travel or call 999 if they suspect a crime is in progress.
“Likewise, if any scrap yard is offered large amounts of lead that looks like it has come from a church, they should also call 101.”
Anyone with information on the theft can also call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.