A vicar and his parishioners slept in their local church in a bid to catch criminals who have been stealing copper from the roof. Rev Barry Hobson, organist Andrew Losq, and resident Phil Jones slept in shifts in St Andrew’s Church, in High Street, Hornchurch, to try and stop raiders who have stolen the church’s upper roofing seven times in just two months.
The thieves have caused around £2,000 worth of damage to 800 year old St Andrew’s which is a Grade I listed building. The church will now need specialist repair work in order to fix the damage.
Rev Hobson, 54, said: “I felt angry more than anything. We decided to do something ourselves when we realised we were being targeted persistently and they weren’t going to stop until they had taken everything.”
The group set up a rota system and slept in sleeping bags on the church floor.
Rev Hobson added: “It was frustrating to start with. We just wanted something to happen, but we knew they would turn up sooner or later. We bedded down on Sunday at around midnight and at 1am we heard the sound of two men approaching.”
The three men waited to hear for the thieves to make their way onto the roof, and then they alerted the police.
The police sent out a helicopter and were able to catch one of the perpetrators, unfortunately the other man escaped.
Rev Hobson said: “It was all terribly exciting. I thought ‘fantastic, after all that hard work we might just get a bit of justice. They had been taking all this Rhodesian copper, which had been there since the middle of the 19th century. It had survived a couple of bombs during the Second World War, so I got a little angry that these people were going to destroy all that history and heritage. Once all the excitement was over, I was just glad to get back to my own bed.”