Thieves smash up churches for a few coppers: Beverley's ancient St Mary's targeted for collection box (video update)
THIEVES have smashed their way into two Beverley churches, causing thousands of pounds of damage to steal coppers from a collection box.
Crooks broke into St Mary's Church, the oldest building in Beverley, through a leaded window.
They then broke into cupboards and doorways in the church, even smashing open the antique, irreplaceable, collections box.
Hours earlier, St John of Beverley RC Church was also targeted.
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St John's outer door was open but a heavy timber door inside, leading to a kitchen, was smashed.
Chief Inspector Alan Farrow said: "When someone breaks into any property, it is always both frustrating and emotionally damaging and I would fundamentally criticise anyone involved in that sort of crime in a religious establishment.
"We will do everything in our power to find and deal with those individuals concerned."
St John of Beverley was targeted at about 4pm on Wednesday, followed by St Mary's between 6pm and 7pm.
Nothing was stolen from St John's but a small amount of cash was taken from St Mary's.
St Mary's Vicar Reverend Becky Lumley said: "We think they were disturbed by the bell ringers who come in at that time. If they had not been disturbed they could have been there all night.
"They made quite a mess. To do it so brazenly was a bit of a shock."
The church, on the corner of Hengate and North Bar Within, is in a busy area of town. Anyone passing the Beverley Arms Hotel or visiting nearby pubs or restaurants could easily have disturbed the thieves.
Despite being in the church for quite a long time, the thieves got away with very little they would be able to sell on.
Picking up the pieces today, Rev Lumley said: "We don't have things that are valuable in the church, even though it's an enormously valuable building.
"But they smashed up the donations box and have taken the contents, which would have been little more than small change.
"The worst aspect is the damage they have caused.
That they smashed one of our windows was the worst thing. Some of the parts of those windows are very ancient.
"I don't know exactly how much it will cost to repair but we have just finished having work done on the windows and I know it cost us £70,000 to repair four of them.
"Other than that, they have been through all the cupboards.
"They really went to town on emptying all the cupboards. But most of what is in them is things like kids' glitter.
"The keys only take you to locked stairways. There really is very little to steal so they will have got away with very little."
Raids on churches are rare. But they are becoming more frequent in the recession.
Rev Lumley said: "I don't think anything like this has happened for years. It's so upsetting. The people who were supposed to be using the church this morning are all elderly.
"We'll talk to the church insurers, it could be covered by insurance.
"The people this affects are not some anonymous body. It is the people who live here who will have to clean up."
Beverley Minster Vicar Reverend Jeremy Fletcher helped alert churches in the area. He said: "Becky rang me and we called other churches in the area.
"All you can do is be extra vigilant. You are really at the mercy of people who are determined to break in.
"It sounds like someone was desperate for cash. If someone is determined to smash windows and doors to break in, it is very hard to know what to do."
He described it as "a violation".
He said: "It's like a break-in at someone's house. A burglary is a violation but people coming into a sacred building, there seems to be something even more horrendous about that.
"We are known for having cash around, people put money in collection boxes. If people are that desperate, they will try and take it."
He said the Minster had not been targeted in the church raids.