Sleepover flock catch lead thieves

CRIMEFIGHTING worshippers have been staking out a Backwell church in a bid to catch thieves stealing lead from its roof. Members of the congregation at

CRIMEFIGHTING worshippers have been staking out a Backwell church in a bid to catch thieves stealing lead from its roof.Members of the congregation at St Andrew's Church have been sleeping overnight in the Medieval building after raiders stole lead from the roof four times in a week.And the dedication of the churchgoers paid off when thieves returned for a fifth time early on Thursday - and got caught.Police were called after two men, who had driven to the church in a van, were seen acting suspiciously in the area.Officers arrived with a sniffer dog and after a brief chase on foot two men, both from the Bristol area, were arrested.The Reverend Simon Hill said the thefts were a real blow to not only the congregation, but to the wider community.But he thanked his flock, saying they had worked hard together as a team to snare the culprits.Rev Hill said: "The church has been working with the local police to tackle the problems together."I am very grateful to the police and to all of the members of the congregation who gave so much of their time and energy to support the church through this."The damage to the church and to replace the lead is likely to run into thousands of pounds."Despite the thefts, services at the church, which has a congregation of around 100, have continued as normal.Rev Hill added: "The real effect has been that church members have had to give a lot of time on paperwork and talking to the Diocese to try and sort the repairs to the church out."St Andrew's Church is not the first to be targeted by lead thieves in the last few weeks. Church leaders were horrified to find that raiders had climbed up on to the roof of St Michael and All Angels in Flax Bourton twice in one week and removed 12 lead panels from the north aisle roof, causing rainwater to flood into the church below. It is also understood a church at Ashton Court was also victim to thieves.North Somerset Police Sector Inspector Steve Date said a number of thefts of lead from churches in the area were being linked.Inspector Date said: "As a result of the thefts we had tasked extra patrols to the area. We had reports of two men driving around in a van during the early hours of Thursday who were acting suspiciously."A police dog was also brought in and managed to track the culprits and a brief foot chase followed and two men were arrested and are now helping us with our inquiries.

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