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Church lead thief 'attacked the heritage' of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 15:58 24 January 2019

Erikas Zabas, 31, was caught having removed lead from the roof of St George’s Church in Colegate, Norwich.Photo: Norfolk police

Erikas Zabas, 31, was caught having removed lead from the roof of St George's Church in Colegate, Norwich.Photo: Norfolk police

Norfolk police

A man was caught "attacking the heritage" of Norwich by stripping £4,000 of lead from the roof of a city church.

St George's Church. Photo : Steve AdamsSt George's Church. Photo : Steve Adams

Erikas Zabas, 31, was caught “red-handed” having removed lead from the roof of St George’s Church in Colegate, Norwich.

John Morgans, prosecuting at Norwich Crown Court, said Zabas and another man were seen acting suspiciously at the church by members of the public.

He said the public-spiritedness of those nearby meant police were called and attended.

They found Zabas, and another man, who said they had been taking drugs.

Revd. Alaric Lewis at St Georges on Colegate. Picture: ArchantRevd. Alaric Lewis at St Georges on Colegate. Picture: Archant

But Mr Morgans said a ladder was against the wall with an assortment of tools, including screwdrivers, mole grips and chisels.

He said two piles of lead had been removed.

Mr Morgans said the church targeted in the incident, on August 8 last year, was a grade one listed building.

Zabas, of Dolphin Grove, Norwich, appeared in court on Thursday (January 24) having pleaded guilty to lead theft at the magistrates court.

Recorder Douglas Herbert, who sentenced Zabas to 28 months in prison, said: “Theft of lead from church roofs, particularly from areas such as Norfolk - a county blessed with many historic grade one and two listed churches - is extremely prevalent.

“This is a very serious offence, it’s an offence which attacks the heritage provided by this building in this area.

“It’s an offence which is particularly prevalent in Norfolk.”

Zabas was also sentenced to six weeks, to run concurrently with the 28 month sentence, after he admitted failing to appear in court in October in relation to this offence.

David Stewart, mitigating, said he admitted the offence at the earliest opportunity and should be given credit for that.

He also said that Zabas had “if not a dependency, a propensity” for illicit drugs and had been taking drugs on this occasion.

Impact of lead theft

Not a victimless crime - that is how a church leader described the theft of lead from a Norwich church.

Reverend Alaric Lewis, who moved to Norwich in April last year, said the theft of lead from the roof St George’s Church on Colegate in August 2018.

Speaking to the paper at the time of the theft, he said: “This isn’t a victimless crime. I think people might think of it that way because there isn’t one person who has been injured.

“The victims of this crime are the people who support and love this church.”

He added: “It’s shocking that this happened in the city surrounded by people, when it was light outside.”

This paper has backed the Raise the Alarm campaign, which was launched by Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner together with a series of church charities, to try and raise money to fund the installation of alarm systems at some of the most vulnerable of the county’s 650 or so churches.

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