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Vandals slash priceless historic paintings in shocking town hall raid

PUBLISHED: 07:38 03 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:43 03 April 2018

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend.
Cllr Richard Berry, Cllr Caroline Byles and Mayor Colin Ribchester.
 Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Cllr Richard Berry, Cllr Caroline Byles and Mayor Colin Ribchester. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

Senseless vandals took a knife to a series of priceless town hall paintings, slashing the historic artwork after apparently failing to find money during a brazen break-in.

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend.
Cllr Caroline Byles. 
Picture: SONYA DUNCANEye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Cllr Caroline Byles. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Councillors went into Eye Town Hall on Easter Monday to prepare it for its reopening following a £200,000 revamp, which had only been completed the previous week.

What they saw left them devastated, as the newly-refurbished main hall was sprayed with fire extinguishers and ransacked, with the raiders apparently looking for money.

Most upsetting of all though was the damage they caused to the paintings in the council chamber of historic figures from Eye’s past, with a grand portrait of Samuel Peck - a key figure in the town as mayor from 1875-76 - cut and torn all the way through the canvas.

One of the paintings, which are said to be worth in the tens of thousands of pounds, was slashed while a different one had a square chopped out of it.

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend.
Mayor Colin Ribchester. Picture: SONYA DUNCANEye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Mayor Colin Ribchester. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Eye Town Hall caretaker Steve Smith said there was shock in the town, with hundreds of people sharing his Facebook post about the crime - which came a day ahead of the town hall’s grand reopening.

“I don’t know what words could describe them,” he said.

“It is vandalism and nothing else. They haven’t stolen anything - they’ve gone through the cupboards but haven’t taken one thing. They’ve just left this horrendous vandalism of the pictures.

“We think they’ve looked for money but haven’t found any. It was so blatant. This is a crime against the people of Eye - these paintings belong to the public.”

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Cllr Caroline Byles. Picture: SONYA DUNCANEye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Cllr Caroline Byles. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Inquiries so far show the raiders smashed the clock tower window to get into the building after climbing scaffolding.

“Whoever has done this must be fit and young as they scaled the scaffolding to gain access,” Mr Smith said.

It is hoped CCTV from a nearby pub and antiques shop will reveal more, as the raiders walked out of the front door of the town hall after their crime.

Eye Town Council is now looking into whether the paintings can be restored.

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture: SONYA DUNCANEye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Caroline Byles, chairman of the town hall committee at Eye Town Council, said: “It really is very sad. We had that really happy event planned and then last night we had somebody break into the town hall building,

“They haven’t taken anything either – they have just vandalised four really lovely paintings.

“It is going to cost a few thousand pounds to repair those paintings. It’s such a pity.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said police are currently in the process of investigating the incident.

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture: SONYA DUNCANEye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Anyone with information should call police on 101.

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