Churches hit by burglars twice over Christmas period

PUBLISHED: 14:17 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:17 02 January 2019

St Mary's Church in Birchanger was broken into for a second time over the Christmas period. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

St Mary's Church in Birchanger was broken into for a second time over the Christmas period. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Archant

A church in Birchanger has launched an appeal to replace stolen items after the building was broken into twice in 10 days.

Items stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDItems stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

On the first occasion, on December 17, thieves smashed a window and stole more than £500 in cash and valuable church artefacts.

It is understood the suspects first made their way to St John’s Church in Stansted Mountfitchet and stole keys from a locked container before going onto St Mary’s Church, in Birchanger. No other items were stolen from St John’s Church.

Items stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDItems stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Police believe the thieves may have been on bikes or mopeds and rode through Digby Wood on their way to Birchanger.

Elaine Wright, churchwarden for St Mary’s Church, said: “They broke into the benefice office in Stansted first and used keys they found to open our church and safe. About £852 in cash, a silver early 19th century chalice, flagon [jug] and a small communion set were taken to the value of £2,500. They broke a lead window as well - why they did this when they had keys we don’t know.

Items stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDItems stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

“On December 27 we were alerted that the church had been broken into again. The other window to the vestry was smashed and they prized open the wood in place of the other broken window to gain access.

“No money was taken or church items, but they did have a good sort through cupboards and caused a terrible mess. Prior to this happening they had broken into the Stansted office again. A description of a suspect is being dealt with by the police.”

Items stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDItems stolen from St Mary's Church in Birchanger. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The church believes the perpetrators planned the raid in advance using local knowledge because the thieves seemed to know where to find the money and that the cash was in a safe.

A spokesman for the church said: “We are devastated and saddened that this has happened, especially during the run up to Christmas, a time of peace and goodwill. Needless to say, the keys are now safely kept in a secure place off the premises.”

A similar item to this one was taken. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDA similar item to this one was taken. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

If anyone noticed something unusual or has any information about the burglaries, contact Essex Police by calling 101. Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

If you would like to help or donate to the church, email stmaryschurch.birchanger@gmail.com.

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