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Gangster who stripped lead from churches put behind bars

PUBLISHED: 10:30 04 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:05 04 November 2017

Remus Tudorache. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

Remus Tudorache. Photo: Norfolk Constabulary

Norfolk Constabulary

A thief was involved in two “professional” gangs which stripped lead worth more than £100,000 from roofs of rural Norfolk churches leaving one church in danger of closing its doors after more than 800 years.

Lead theft at Baconsthorpe church: Pictures: Corinne Youngs Lead theft at Baconsthorpe church: Pictures: Corinne Youngs

Remus Tudorache, 27, was jailed five years and one month, after admitting involvement in a gang behind a string lead thefts in 2015 but was also part of another gang, which was operating this year until it was smashed when police arrested four members after a chase, near Wisbech.

Sentencing Tudorache at Norwich Crown Court, Judge Maureen Bacon said it was an “organised professional “ operation and said: “In one case it was so substantial it has affected whether the church can continue to be viable or whether it has to be closed.”

St Mary’s Church at Baconsthorpe was one church targeted twice by Tudorache and lead worth £100,000 was stripped from the roof shortly after the small band of parishioners had spent two years raising £120,000 to carry out restoration work.

In an impact statement, Corinne Youngs, secretary of Baconsthorpe Parochial Church Council, said the lead theft had left them “crushed and devastated” and unable to cope and said it had put the church in danger of closing after 800 years.

Lead theft at Baconsthorpe church: Pictures: Corinne Youngs Lead theft at Baconsthorpe church: Pictures: Corinne Youngs

Turorache, from Roland Avenue, Coventry, who had the help of a Romanian interpreter in court, admitted conspiring to steal lead from church roofs between March and May 21 this year.

He also admitted being part of another conspiracy to steal lead from church roofs between April and May, 2015 and theft of lead from St Michael and All Angels’ Church, in Bedfordshire.

Hilary O’Keefe, prosecuting, said in the first round of thefts, churches targeted were St Mary’s at Narford, All Saints at East Barsham and St Mary’s in East Bradenham. Other churches hit in the second round of thefts were Erpingham and Baconsthorpe churches, in North Norfolk.

Jonathan Goodman, for Tudorache, said he thought the cost of replacing the lead would be met by insurance: “He perceived this to be a victimless crime,”

He said Tudorache had not realised the emotional upset it caused: “He has expressed his regret now he has found out the effect it has had on rural communities.”

Judge Bacon asked that her sentencing remarks be sent to the Home Office so Tudorache can be considered for deportation when he has served his sentence.

This newspaper has a campaign called “Stop The Roof Raiders” which aims to raise awareness of this region-wide issue.

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