Church warden helps to stop thieves from stealing half a tonne of lead from church roof in Starston

Thieves have targetted the lead roof at Starston Church but were disturbed when neighbours raised th

Thieves have targetted the lead roof at Starston Church but were disturbed when neighbours raised the alarm.Pictured is Church Warden Julian Lombe Taylor. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

A churchwarden thwarted would-be thieves who were stripping lead from his church's roof after he heard them in the middle of the night.

Thieves have targetted the lead roof at Starston Church but were disturbed when neighbours raised th

Thieves have targetted the lead roof at Starston Church but were disturbed when neighbours raised the alarm.Pictured is Church Warden Julian Lombe Taylor. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Julian Lombe Taylor was in bed and had just turned out the lights when he heard the sound of lead panels being thrown down from the top of nearby St Margaret's Church, Starston, to the ground below.

He swiftly worked out what was causing the noise and alerted a neighbour, whose house was even closer to the building.

They then switched on their lights, which startled the would-be thieves and caused them to flee, dumping the lead before they went.

It comes at a time when churches in Suffolk and Norfolk are at a state of heightened alert, following dozens of recent raids across the region. More than 40 churches in both counties have been targeted for their lead over the past two years.

In response, the Eastern Daily Press has organised a £26,000 reward for information that can help convict the gangs behind the crime wave.

In the Starston raid, four large strips, totalling half a tonne of lead, were removed from the 13th century building.

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Although all the material was left behind at the scene, the church is still facing a significant repair bill, because the material was damaged when it was stripped and cannot be reused.

Mr Lombe Taylor, 59, said: 'It's upsetting because although most will be paid through insurance, we will have to use church funds which the Parochial Church Council wanted to spend within the church on toilets and a kitchenette.'

The raid happened at about 11.30pm on December 13.

'I was in bed and had just turned out the lights when I heard the thump of lead hitting the ground.

'I knew the sound because the same thing happened 20 years ago,' Mr Lombe Taylor added.

'We rang the neighbours who live opposite the church and they turned on their light and it spooked those involved.'

The warden, who has been involved with the church for 30 years, said it was noticed by churchgoers at 6pm that night that a light on a wall near the church had been removed, but didn't think much about it.

But he now believes it was removed in advance by the culprits.

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