A man who looted 'irreplaceable' antiques from three Norwich churches to raise money for his pregnant partner after being made homeless has escaped jail.

Over three weeks in January, Dylan Cotgrove stole artefacts from city churches and sold them on. They included two candlesticks from a set of six valued at £4,000 from St John the Baptist on Timberhill.

Cotgrove, 24, of Holt Road in Sheringham, also broke into the vestry of St Georges Church on Colegate, and stole a charity box destined for Norwich Historic Churches Trust from All Saints Church.

After he admitted burglary and three counts of theft, magistrates gave him 12 weeks in prison suspended for two years, and ordered him to pay compensation of £1,348.

Prosecutor Denise Holland told Norwich Magistrates Court on Wednesday all the items Cotgrove stole were taken to a store for cash.

'They sell those items on pretty quickly and they have never been traced,' she said.

'Those irreplaceable antiques and fabric of the church have never been recovered.'

Mitigating for Cotgrove, James Burrows told the court he and his partner were made homeless last December.

'She is pregnant and the baby is due on July 24,' he said. 'Mr Cotgrove formed the decision he had to do something to put a roof over their heads and had to get some money.

'He has regretted it ever since.'

Despite his crimes it was the church that helped Cotgrove and his partner back to their feet. Canaan Christian Centre in Sheringham has found them accommodation and support to plan for their new baby, the court heard.

Mr Burrows added Cotgrove is 'not proud of himself'.

'In the days after he was interviewed in January he had a stroke of luck and got some accommodation with the Christian centre in Sheringham,' he said. 'He has been able to buy some small things for the baby and there has been donations. Now a support network is in place and they have a support worker in place for the next two years to assist them with the child.

'A lot of that could not have been done, ironically, without the Christian support group.'

After the hearing Cotgrove told the bench: 'Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be a productive citizen.'