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Byline: Justine Halifax

A CONGREGATION is pleading with lead thieves to 'leave our church alone' - after the greedy crooks struck three times in just one month and even took the lightning conductor.

Worshippers at the grade two listed St Paul's Church in Coleshill Street, Fazeley, near Tamworth, fear the building could be razed to the ground now the vital protector has gone.

Since May, the building, which is linked to the Peel family, including Sir Robert Peel, who created the police force, has seen the lead from the roof and the porch stripped twice.

Following the first theft the congregation paid out of its own pocket to replace the lead, but within weeks it was stolen again.

Now thieves have returned for a third time, to steal the copper in the church's lightning conductor, which runs the height of the building, leaving the church at real risk of being burned to the ground should lightning strike.

The overall cost to replace it is believed to be up to pounds 2,000.

Church warden Michael Crick, a civil engineer, said: "For the sake of just a few pounds-worth of copper, the church now has to employ a specialist contractor costing perhaps pounds 2,000 to reinstall a lightning conductor. "The building is used for a wide range of activities, including Fazeley Pre-School. There was a thunderstorm the very night of the theft, and a lightning strike then would have had dire consequences."

New local MP Christopher Pincher said: "I am very sad that thieves have stooped to targeting a church. The theft of the lead was bad enough but stealing the copper in the lightning conductor threatens the entire building.

"And though the cost of replacing the copper and lead is minimal the labour costs and the replacement of slates means the actual cost to the church will run into thousands. Crimes like this must be taken seriously."

Any suspicious activity near churches or similar buildings should be reported to Staffordshire Police on 0300 123 4455.


Raids: St Paul's Church.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jun 17, 2010
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