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Two church raids within days

PUBLISHED: 16:49 18 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:00 03 March 2010

POLICE fear that thefts from two south Suffolk churches within two days could be the start of a series of raids on churches.

They are asking people to keep an eye out for anyone acting suspiciously after articles were stolen from churches in Stratford St Mary then Nayland with Wissington.

POLICE fear that thefts from two south Suffolk churches within two days could be the start of a series of raids on churches.

They are asking people to keep an eye out for anyone acting suspiciously after articles were stolen from churches in Stratford St Mary then Nayland with Wissington.

The message has been reinforced by the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, which alerted almost all its parishes within an hour of hearing about the Stratford St Mary church raid in Dedham Road.

The church was raided between 3.30pm and 6.30pm on Wednesday, June 11.

A small wooden table and a triptych print dated 1878 were stolen.

On Friday, June 13, between noon and 3pm, a mahogany Victorian table was stolen from St James' Church, Nayland with Wissington.

In both cases the churches were unlocked.

Rev Christine Garrard said she reported the Stratford St Mary theft to the diocese as soon as she heard from the church warden who discovered the theft. She added there were no plans to close the church during the day.

She said: "It was very distressing. The triptych had to be ripped off a frame on the wall and the chapel altar now looks dreadful.

"We shall go on leaving it open not least because of our visitors' book – you can't lock people out."

She added that there were no longer any valuables accessible in the church and that people in the neighbourhood were keeping an eye on it.

Diocesan Communication Director Nick Clarke, said all parishes took security very seriously, but part of the function of a church was to be open for people needing quiet for prayer and reflection.

He said almost all the parishes in the diocese were very quickly warned to be on the lookout for thieves operating in the area.

Anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious near Stratford St Mary church is asked to call Pc Beverley Chalcraft, at Suffolk police and for the Nayland church contact Pc Amy Baker at Hadleigh police, both on 01473 613500.

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