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Dozens of thefts from west Kent churches in the past five years

The true cost and disruption caused by thefts from churches can be revealed.

Police responded to more than 90 such crimes across the west of the county in the last five years, according to data released by Kent Police through a Freedom of Information request.

It shows 94 reports of stealing from parishes in Maidstone, Tonbridge, Malling and Tunbridge Wells between 2013-2018.

Rev Arthur Houston. Picture: Matthew Walker
Rev Arthur Houston. Picture: Matthew Walker

There were 40 cases in Maidstone, 30 thefts from Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells recorded the lowest at 24.

Canon Arthur Houston, priest-in-charge at St Faith’s Church in Station Road, Maidstone said: “Often what is stolen from churches does not carry a lot of value, but the damage and aftermath is massive.

“We had lead stolen from our roof at St Faith’s last summer.

"We overlook Brenchley Gardens and we weren’t aware of it until council workers told us lead was missing. But we hope to complete the repairs in the next few weeks."

Rev Paul White. Picture: Martin Apps
Rev Paul White. Picture: Martin Apps

The Rev Paul White, Vicar of St Mary’s in Maidstone Road, Hadlow, once experienced most of the metal being taken from a roof when he was Curate of All Saints Church in Woodchurch.

He hit on the novel idea of a skydive at Headcorn Aerodrome to help fund the £65,000 repair bill.

Mary Gibbins, chairman of charity, Friends of Kent Churches said it is mainly lead which is taken.

She added: “Sometimes the church is unaware. Water starts leaking in places you can’t see like behind the organ, so it costs a lot more than just the price of the lead.

“The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 states you need photo ID and to provide an address when selling metal.

"This lowered the number of lead thefts for a while but it seems to be getting worse.”

Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, an insurer of church buildings, said: “Silverware, money, donation boxes and safes remain among the most common items stolen from churches.”

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