Thief jailed after stealing war memorial statue and cutting it up for sale
PUBLISHED: 17:24 29 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 29 June 2018
A Suffolk man who stole a bronze statue from a war memorial in a churchyard has been jailed for 30 months.
The large figure of Christ on a cross which was in the churchyard of St Michael’s in Broome was later found in nine pieces at a scrap metal merchants, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
The statue, which would cost £20,000 to recast, had been sold for £80 by the thief and his accomplice to buy alcohol, said Andrew Thompson, prosecuting.
Before the court was Ben De Vilder, 24, of Tonning Street, Lowestoft, who admitted stealing the statue on June 2 last year.
He also admitted possession of an imitation firearm, namely a handgun, with intent to cause fear of violence on June 14 last year.
Jailing De Vilder, Judge Emma Peters said: “In June last year you went to a churchyard in the middle of the day in Broome and from St Michael’s churchyard you and another man stole a bronze statue of Christ. That statue was part of a war memorial in that village which was put in place after the First World War in memory of those who had fallen.
“There are many for whom that theft struck at the heart of all that is dear to them.”
Judge Peters described the theft as “unpleasant” and said the offence was so serious that only an immediate prison sentence would suffice.
The court heard that De Vilder and another man were seen acting suspiciously by a woman who was looking after the churchyard and it was subsequently discovered the statue was missing.
In another incident several days later on June 14, De Vilder had driven to a multi-occupancy building in Kirkley Cliff Road in Lowestoft and pointed an imitation handgun at a woman who was at her flat window.
Mark Roochove, for De Vilder, said his client was thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour. He said De Vilder had been drunk at the time of the theft of the statue from the war memorial.
In the last year his focus had been on his responsibilities to his young child and he was determined to turn his life around.
At the time of the theft last year, the website of the Norfolk village – and its neighbours Hedenham, Thwaite and Ditchingham – said that the large bronze statue had been mounted on a wooden cross when it was taken.