Church roof lead thefts being carried out by ‘highly sophisticated eastern European criminal gangs’

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Thousands of pounds worth of lead is being stolen from church roofs in Northamptonshire by “highly organised criminal groups of an eastern European origin”, police have revealed.

A seminar was held at Althorp House yesterday to provide advice to churches following a recent spate of thefts of lead across the county.

Sergeant Sam Dobbs, from Daventry, who organised the event, said it was a crime being carried out by highly organised gangs of criminals who were using drones and Google Earth to look at access points on the church roofs.

He said: “This crime is being carried out by highly organised eastern European criminal gangs.

“The thieves are scouting out the church roofs before they go in and steal the lead.”

Mr Dobbs said the best way of combating the thieves was for churches to install a certain type of alarm that gives off a warning siren and informs keyholders if any attempt is made to access the roof.

The alarm costs about £5,000, but Mr Dobbs said this would be cost effective as most insurance companies only paid out for the first £7,000 of the lead stolen.

At the seminar, Mr Dobbs recounted the stories of recent lead thefts in the area including the parish church in Great Brington, a Grade 1 listed building where between nine and 12 tonnes of lead was stolen in August, leaving a repair bill of £40,000.

At St Andrews Church in Arthingworth, where lead worth £12,000 was stolen from the roof in September, the damage to the roof resulted in water getting into a Victorian organ, causing an estimated £30,000 worth of damage.