Sleaford area village fears church may close after £100k lead theft - but four arrested

Totally stripped - the roof of Threeingham Church after lead thieves struck at the weekend. Photo: Rev Cameron Watt EMN-191112-111133001
Totally stripped - the roof of Threeingham Church after lead thieves struck at the weekend. Photo: Rev Cameron Watt EMN-191112-111133001

A small village congregation is questioning whether it can afford to carry on after thieves struck twice to strip lead from their church roof.

Rev Cameron Watt, Interim Minister for the Parish of South Lafford, said thieves targeted St Peter Ad Vincula Church in Threekingham on Saturday night, taking a substantial amount of the main chancel roof lead, returning the following evening to take the rest, causing significant damage.

Rev Watt said: “It will cost up to £100,000 to repair which is money we do not have and has caused a huge amount of distress to the whole village community.

“It has made people feel unsafe and really distressed that, coming up to Christmas, the church at the heart of the community has been vandalised and desecrated.”

He is responsible for 11 churches in the parish and all five with lead roofs have now been targetd over the last few years - some more than once - with Braceby being hit a few weeks ago, while nearby Billingborough was targeted last week.

Rev Watt said, with such a small congregation they could not afford to insure the church and so they are faced with having to find the cost of the entire repair bill: “We have a carol service on Friday which is going ahead but in the long term. We have very few in the congregation and it is whether they have the energy to raise the money. It is calling into question the future of that church community as a direct result of the action of these thieves.”

Roofers begin work to put a temporary covering on Threekingham Church, but Rev Cameron Watt fears the massive �100,000 repair bill is more than the small congregation can afford. Photo: Rev Cameron Watt EMN-191112-111156001

Roofers begin work to put a temporary covering on Threekingham Church, but Rev Cameron Watt fears the massive �100,000 repair bill is more than the small congregation can afford. Photo: Rev Cameron Watt EMN-191112-111156001

He paid tribute to the rooferswho came and battled the high winds and rain to nail temporary roofing felt on the church to protect it from the elements and he thanked their customers for understanding and allowing them to come and help in an emergency.

He said: “We have a huge amount of damage - both physical and emotional - that will not go away. It is a small village and we do not know what the future of the church is going to be. That is the sort of damage that has been done.

“Each village has to fund its own church and it is pretty impossible.

“It is heartless and mindless vandalism of the worst order. There is a lack of respect for the heritage of the church and a sorry indictment of some in our society.”

“We moved everything we could out of the way inside, but it was raining and there is water on the floor.

He said he had been told by police that one car linked to the crime had been disabled by police as it left the village on Sunday night but the occupants made off on foot.

Another vehicle was allegedly traced to the West Midlands and officers have arrested four people and enquiries continue. All four have since been released on police bail yesterday (Tuesday).

Sleaford Police confirmed the arrests via Twitter and described how its officers along with other units including drone operators all swept into the area to intercept the suspected thieves on Sunday.

Commenting afterwards, Pc Jimmy Conway of Sleaford Police tweeted: “Heritage crime affects our beautiful county and we will continue to target it.”

Assistant Chief Constable Kerrin Wilson tweeted: “Brilliant stuff by a great team.”

* Lincolnshire Police have been approached for an update and will be releasing a statement soon.