Church loot payment for drug dealers

DRUG dealers are accepting historical artefacts as payment from addicts who are raiding churches to fund their habits, an insurer has claimed.Ecclesiastical Insurance spoke out after burglars broke into the parish church in Barking, near Needham Market, at the weekend and stole goods worth £1,350.

DRUG dealers are accepting historical artefacts as payment from addicts who are raiding churches to fund their habits, an insurer has claimed.

Ecclesiastical Insurance spoke out after burglars broke into the parish church in Barking, near Needham Market, at the weekend and stole goods worth £1,350.

They caused £500 of damage smashing a leaded window to break in and then stole two antique oak caned chairs, a Jacobean sanctuary chair, a funeral mask, a serpent wind instrument and a number of candlestick holders.

Brian King, a spokesman for Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: "We are seeing a change. There was a large spate of antique thefts from churches which bore all the hallmarks of being professional.

"Now less professional thieves are moving in and taking anything they can from churches, often to feed a drug habit. Now drug dealers are fencing these products.

"The addict will buy drugs from the dealer and owe money. When the user does not have the money, the dealer asks for something valuable. We know of dealers in possession of church antiques in the south of England."

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Nick Clarke, director of communications for the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese, said: "We are obviously distressed that burglars have broken into a local parish church and stolen from it.

"There was a spate of churches being broken in to in Suffolk, but it is not a major problem.

"For many churches, it is important to be open during daylight hours to offer a place of sanctuary, a place in a busy world. We are not discouraging churches from having open doors. On this occasion, the church was locked."

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