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Four churches broken into in one weekend in East Cambridgeshire



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Villagers are being urged to be vigilant following four church break-ins in East Cambridgeshire in one weekend.

Thieves broke into St Andrew’s Church in Main Street, Witchford, St Peter’s Church in Main Street, Wentworth, St Michael and All Angels Church in Chettisham and St Mary’s Church in Church Street, Ely, on February 6 or 7.

George Jellicoe at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell
George Jellicoe at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell

Although little appears to have been stolen, damage was caused during the break-ins.

George Jellicoe, who has lived opposite the grade II-listed St Andrew’s Church for 34 years, was first alerted by Brian Setchell, who was visiting his wife’s grave on Sunday morning.

“We think it was sometime between Saturday night and early Sunday morning,” he said.

“I went round and had a look and you could see the window at the side of the vestibule had been broken into.

Brian Setchell, left, and George Jellicoe with the smashed window at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell
Brian Setchell, left, and George Jellicoe with the smashed window at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Because I've got a key, I went in and had a look and saw all the damage that was done. I told the churchwarden and she contacted the police.”

“A forensics team came from Luton at 4.15pm and left at 6.45pm on Sunday evening. On Monday, (February 8), two constables came and had a look around.

“They noticed things that I hadn’t noticed. They found the lock broken on the wooden offertory box as you come into the church. I knew that the petty cash box had been opened and then, further down, where people light candles and put money into a little box, they had used tin snips to open the box and peel it back. They’d obviously turned it upside down to shaken out all the money.

George Jellicoe at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell
George Jellicoe at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell

“They left the coins but maybe there were notes in there. Then at the top end, by the altar, there’s a little safe there and that had been opened. Drawers had been pulled out to have a look inside.”

George was meeting a glazier yesterday (Tuesday) to look at replacing the leaded window, which fortunately was not stained glass.

Dr Rosemary Westwell, the churchwarden at St Andrew’s, made an appeal to the community.

Brian Setchell, left, and George Jellicoe with the smashed window at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell
Brian Setchell, left, and George Jellicoe with the smashed window at St Andrew’s Church in Witchford. Picture: Keith Heppell

“If you saw anything suspicious before the crime was committed, or you know anything, we would be very grateful for the information,” she said.

“Also, we would be very grateful for advice regarding taking precautions to prevent it happening again and for information about any grants to assist us do the repairs and replace the items stolen.”

George added: “It’s just such a shame really that somebody feels they can do this with such impunity. The damage is significant and it’s going to cost a lot of money to put right, but what they got out of it seems to be very little.”

The break-in at St Andrew’s Church, Witchford, February 2021 (44319666)
The break-in at St Andrew’s Church, Witchford, February 2021 (44319666)

East Cambridgeshire neighbourhood sergeant Mark Rabel said: “Officers have been in touch with the churches affected and others in the area to offer crime prevention and security advice.

“We’d like to ask our communities, who are now spending more time than ever at home and within their local neighbourhoods, to look out for any suspicious activity and report it to us. If you see a crime in progress, call 999.”

Anyone with information about the break-ins at any of the four churches is asked to speak to police via bit.ly/2D9KFKH, or call 101 quoting references 35/7459/21, 35/7445/21, 35/7448/21 and 35/7447/21.

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