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Man hid inside Coltishall church to wait for police after hearing possible thieves on roof

PUBLISHED: 10:41 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:25 28 April 2017

Three people were arrested at Coltishall church on suspicion of theft offences. Pictures: David Bale

Three people were arrested at Coltishall church on suspicion of theft offences. Pictures: David Bale

Archant

A man hid inside a pitch-black church to wait for police after hearing possible lead thieves walking on the roof.

Workers on the church roof in Coltishall putting down tarpaulins to protect it from the rain: Pictures: David Bale Workers on the church roof in Coltishall putting down tarpaulins to protect it from the rain: Pictures: David Bale

The member of the church, who did not want to be identified, was locking up at St John the Baptist Church in Coltishall when he heard noises outside.

He called police and ducked into the building to hide.

Officers arrived at the Church Street place of worship at 9.30pm on Wednesday and found a 20-year-old man on the roof of the church.

He was arrested on suspicion of theft and possessing a knife. A man in his 30s and a woman in her 20s were also arrested in connection with the theft.

All three were taken to Aylsham police investigation centre for questioning.

The rector, the Rev Christopher Engelsen said a church member had heard noises coming from the roof while locking up, and phoned the police. He added: “He waited inside the church until the police arrived. We do not yet know the extent of the damage caused, but we are relieved that nothing was taken.”

Roofers from RG Leverett Ltd put tarpaulins on the roof to protect it from the rain on Thursday. One of the workers said they had carried out similar work many times recently.

The church is known for its reed-thatch roof, the tall 15th century tower, 67ft high, and its clock that was fitted in 1877.

Wednesday’s incident comes four months after thieves left parishioners in a nearby north Norfolk village “devastated” after targeting their church over the Christmas holidays.

They stole lead worth thousands of pounds from the roof of St Bartholomew’s Church in Sloley, near North Walsham, between December 29 and December 30 - forcing them to hold their New Year services under tarpaulin.

The culprits also cut the chain on the gates and ripped up the churchyard with their getaway vehicle.

A parishioner out walking their dog spotted the damage, over the south aisle, and raised the alarm.

The theft at Sloley came a week after lead was stolen from the roof of St Margaret’s Church in Toft Monks - 30 miles away.

Anyone with information about lead thefts in their neighbourhood should call Norfolk Constabulary 
on 101.

Has your church been targeted by lead thieves? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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