Medieval treasures worth £40,000 stolen in burglary spree at eight Norfolk churches
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Medieval artefacts worth more than £40,000 are among items stolen in a series of raids on churches across a vast swathe of eastern Norfolk.
Police believe the thefts, which took place over the course of two months, are linked, and have made two arrests.
In total, there were 11 burglaries, targeting eight different churches.
PA equipment including an audio mixer and amplifier was taken from Holy Trinity Church in Rectory Close, Caister between March 30 and May 1
Rev Tim Thompson tagged the theft of the equipment - which will cost close to £700 to replace - as 'deeply annoying'.
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St Peter and Paul's Church in Butt Lane, Burgh Castle was hit on April 2 when the 1000-year-old church was broken into and although nothing was stolen, a window was damaged. There was also an attempted break-in at the church on May 16.
On April 16 two silver plates with lids went missing from the St John the Baptist in Rectory Road, Coltishall, and then between April 24 - 29 two radio hearing devices were taken from Holy Trinity in Somerton Road, Winterton.
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Two thefts happened at the medieval St Mary's in Black Street, Martham. A handbag was stolen on April 30 during a bank holiday art exhibition, and then between May 1 - 4 a safe was entered and priceless artefacts were taken.
Police believe a key taken from the handbag may have been used to access the safe. Cash was also stolen from the same church on May 24.
Rev Karen Rayner said: 'The artefacts had been used in the church since medieval times, especially the chalice which people would have drank from since medieval times. There's something about the continuity of worship in these things and although we're put in an insurance claim for £40,000 for them, they're priceless.'
Churchwarden Gillian Hood said the equipment was fairly old, meaning the entire system may need to be replaced and not just the missing parts.
She added: 'You usually hear about thieves taking lead but this seems very specific.'
In Ingham, Holy Trinity Church in Mill Road was targeted between May 7 - 15 when ancient brass inlays were removed and on May 23 an amplifier was taken from St Mary's in The Street, Hemsby.
Archdeacon of Norwich Jan McFarlane said: 'People sometimes think a crime at a church is a victimless crime, but the buildings and contents mean a lot to not only those who go to the church but to the whole community, so rarely is it victimless.
'What I would love to see generally is that when people are caught for a crime at a church, that as a kind of community service they could come and work on church buildings, and learn to love it as much as we do.'
Two men have been arrested in connection with the burglaries.
The 34-year-old man from the Great Yarmouth area and the 36-year-old man from the Gorleston area were released on bail pending further enquires.