Thieves steal charity money from Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival

Thieves broke in to Fakenham Parish Church and stole money from charity buckets given during the town's ever popular Christmas Tree Festival.

A small chancel window was entered between 10pm on Saturday and 7am on Sunday and the intruders went through all 76 buckets which sit next to the trees around the church representing a wide range of good causes.

Fortunately most of the money had been taken out before the church closed last night but it is thought about �100 had been left in them and was taken.

Police are investigating the break-in and are carrying out forensic examinations to look for clues.

The festival - which continues until Thursday - is in its 11th year and is expected to attract 25,000 people through the doors and raise more than �18,000 for charities.

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The burglary was discovered at 7am today by Fakenham rector the Rev Adrian Bell, who said extra security would be put in at the church.

'It is very upsetting and I am in a state of shock and when I discovered the break-in I was shaking like a leaf. They had been through every bucket as each one had the top off. This is the first time we have ever had thefts at the festival. 'It leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth, but it could have been a lot worse.'

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Mr Bell said the church had been 'packed' during Saturday and about �6000 had been given during the day, the vast majority of which had been taken out of the buckets and securely stored.

He said the church would make up the money which had been stolen so the charities would not miss out.

Mr Bell said the chancel window had just been restored at a cost of hundreds of pounds and would have to be repaired at considerable cost.

He said it must have been someone very small - possibly a child - who got in through the window as the gap was little and he thinks others must have been involved.

'If someone was really desperate for money we would help them and we know lots of local charities who will provide support for people in need.'

Mr Bell said the festival would be open as usual for the rest of the week, from 10am-8pm.

Over the years the festival has raised more than �250,000 for numerous charities.

Anyone with information on the break-in should ring Norfolk Police on 101.

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