December 14, 2012 9.42 am This story is over 131 months old

Video: Church lead theft gang gets 20 years jail

Lithuanian gang jailed: Police says convictions and jail terms represent the biggest success in the fight against heritage crime in Britain to date.

A gang of six Lithuanian men that ripped lead off the roofs 20 churches across Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire has been sentenced to more than 20 years jail in total.

The men took part in a complex operation causing up to £1 million damage. They targeted churches and ripped lead from roofs during night time raids, which they sold on at scrap yards.

It is estimated that they stole 70 tonnes of lead, which they sold for £70,000, but the damage they caused to the churches was more than ten times that amount.

The group were snared when Lincolnshire Police stopped two suspicious vehicles on the A46 on August 25. Five of the six defendants were present, along with a quantity of stolen lead. All were arrested on suspicion of theft.

The following month, while on bail, two of the offenders were caught and arrested again while trying to weigh in more stolen lead at a local scrap yard.

‘Smart water’ on the lead in the car identified it as from a county church. The rest of the gang were identified through mobile phone records, scrap metal records, scientific evidence, including ‘smart water’ from the metal and DNA from a cigarette butt left on one of the church roofs.