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Thieves target Wood Ditton church for second time in two months



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Desecrated: Plastic sheets replace the stolen lead to protect the interior of Wood Ditton Church from the elements.
Desecrated: Plastic sheets replace the stolen lead to protect the interior of Wood Ditton Church from the elements.

Parishioners at Wood Ditton have been left devastated after thieves stole lead from their church roof for a second time in two months.

It was just before Easter that a gang struck for the first time, stripping the lead from the south aisle roof of the parish church of St Mary The Virgin.

The cost of replacing it was estimated at more than £15,000, only part of which was covered by insurance, plus a further £5,000 to instal a roof alarm.

“We had appealed to the village and, with the help of grants from the AllChurches Trust and the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust, we had raised enough to do the alarm and replace the lead,” said Dr Tony White, a former Newmarket GP who is treasurer of the Parochial Church Council.

“So we were devastated to discover this weekend that the thieves had returned and taken lead from the north aisle roof and also from the church porch.”

Th present-day Church of St Mary The Virgin, Wood Ditton, is 600 years old but there has been a church on the site for at least a thousand years.
Th present-day Church of St Mary The Virgin, Wood Ditton, is 600 years old but there has been a church on the site for at least a thousand years.

The lead had been painted with Smart Water so if it turned up in a scrap yard it could be identified as coming from Wood Ditton Church but, Dr White has learnt, it is more likely to have been put in containers and shipped abroad – possibly to China.

Cambridgeshire Police’s Rural Crime Action Team is investigating both thefts as part of its inquiries into a recent spate of similar crimes. “They deal with lead thefts and hare coursing which apparently tend to involve the same people,” said Dr White.

“On both occasions it seems the thieves were disturbed because the first time they left behind a crow-bar, and the second time a purpose-made tool for lifting the lead so it is possible the police may find DNA or fingerprints,” he added.

The PCC now has to raise a further £7,500 and is considering replacing the roof with Terne Coated stainless steel, a cheaper alternative to lead which is less attractive to thieves.

“It is very sad that a Grade I listed building has been desecrated in this way,” said Dr White.

“I’m afraid it is difficult to think Christian thoughts about the people responsible.”