New priest slams thieves who stole lead from Portsmouth church roof

113194-5886 CHURCH LEAD STOLEN (CS) MRW 8/9/2011 ''//all pix re: lead being stolen from a flat roof area, lightning conductors and the associated connections at The Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels above Hempsted Green at Paulsgrove // ''Father Ian Newton -  The Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels at Hempsted Green at Paulsgrove '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113194-5886)
113194-5886 CHURCH LEAD STOLEN (CS) MRW 8/9/2011 ''//all pix re: lead being stolen from a flat roof area, lightning conductors and the associated connections at The Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels above Hempsted Green at Paulsgrove // ''Father Ian Newton - The Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels at Hempsted Green at Paulsgrove '''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113194-5886)
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CHURCHGOERS in a tight-knit community are distraught after thieves stole lead from their place of worship and caused damage that will cost thousands to repair.

St Michael and All Angels’ Church, off Hempsted Green in Paulsgrove, has been left with a leaking roof, blown electrics, peeling plaster and damp after crooks stole all of the roof’s lead – even the lightning conductor.

The theft is the latest in a series of incidents which have seen metal stolen for scrap from a school, a cemetery and even a young boy.

The thieves, who police believe struck last week, left a pile of rubble and a repair bill running into thousands.

Father Ian Newton, who only joined the church on Monday, said: ‘Rain was coming through, the electrics blew and paint was coming off the walls.

‘We’ve still got rain running through the roof, causing damage and there’s damage to the surface of the roof and brickwork where the lead has been pulled out. One of the other problems is the amount of rubble that’s been left.

‘The sad thing is the church is a part of this community and in a sense something has not been taken from the church, it’s been taken away from everybody.’

He added: ‘Some people will go to any lengths to get hold of what they want or need.

‘In terms of the scrap value, it’s probably small, but the costs to us is huge.’

The latest theft comes after Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock this week tabled a Parliamentary motion calling on the government to tighten up scrap metal sales rules.

And Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has written to the government demanding more measures to tackle the crime.

As reported in The News, the cost to Portsmouth City Council alone of repairing damage caused by metal thieves since 2009 is almost £200,000. In Paulsgrove, St Michael and All Angels has had some offers of help – from Bedhampton Builders, B&Q at the Pompey Centre in Fratton and Portsmouth firm Upabove Studios. But the church still needs to raise cash as insurers will not cover the full costs of the damage.

Father Newton added: ‘People are upset. It’s not a parish that’s flush with money – we have to raise this money ourselves which is a source of anxiety, The important thing is that people are vigilant.’

Call Hampshire Constabulary on 101. To donate to the church call 023 9278 5970.

OTHER THEFTS

ST Michael and All Angels’ Church is the latest victim in a spate of metal thefts.

Crooks stole lead from the roof of Langstone Junior School in Copnor on August 26, causing £15,000 of damage.

As reported in The News, Aston Muff, who has cerebral palsy, was left in tears after thieves stole the six-year-old’s walking frame from his home in Harleston Road, Wymering, on August 12.

Thieves also stole plaques from the civilian war memorial at Portsmouth’s Kingston cemetery last month, leaving many relatives distressed.