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Parishioners night vigil helps catch lead thief at Bournemouth church
CRIME fighting parishioners helped to catch a thief trying to steal lead from the roof of their town centre church.
Volunteers, Reverend Chris Colledge and neighbourhood watch colleague, Norman Decent, camped out at St Stephen’s church in Bournemouth overnight on Thursday in a bid to try and catch the thief.
Reverend Colledge said: “I had alerted the police beforehand so they were aware of what we were doing.
“About 1.40am we saw a man crouch down by a wall adjacent to the church so he could not be seen.”
Rev Colledge, who is also chairman of the West Cliff Green Residents Association, said he saw the man shimmy up a drain pipe to get to the South Aisle roof, and at that point he alerted the police as to what was happening.
Officers and a police dog arrived and called the fire service to request a cherry picker to get onto the roof to bring the man down.
He added: “We have had enough and I felt that this was the only course of action to try and catch the people that cause so much grief and sorrow to our church. If this leads to more arrests then it has worked out extremely well.”
St Stephen’s Church in Bournemouth has been targeted by lead thieves at least six times recently, costing the church more than £200,000 to date.
In the last week the thefts are said to have taken place almost every other night at St Stephen’s with sister church St Augustin’s also targeted.
Parish churchwarden Adrian Scott said they were “relieved”.
“It has been a real worry to us at the church because this last week the lead has been going about every other night”, he said.
“Hopefully this may send a message to others that we are watching them.
“St Stephen’s is one of John Loughborough Pearson’s finest buildings and is Grade I listed.
“We are constrained as to what we can replace the lead with as we know it will be costly and the church has only meagre reserves to fall back on.”
A spokesperson for Dorset Police said a 36-year-old Bournemouth man had been charged in connection with a lead theft on a church.
He was due to appear at Bournemouth Magistrates Court.