Four men have been arrested as police continue their investigations into the spate of theft of lead from churches across Lincolnshire last year and in January 2020.
Local communities felt a great sense of loss at the damage caused to their heritage and police believe that in total there were more than 40 offences committed in Lincolnshire in 2019 where lead was stolen from rural churches during 2019.
Lincolnshire Police said at this stage 16 of those are believed to be linked, but it is anticipated that number may increase as the investigation processes.
Four men aged 24, 28, 30 and 43 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal. They have since been released on bail while investigations continue.
Police provided advice to 53 premises and also have a dedicated team of investigators making enquiries into the thefts.
Among the incidents were a spate of thefts which happened near Lincoln. Thieves ripped lead from the roof of All Saints Church in Eagle in March 2019, as well as from All Saints Church in North Scarle and St Peter’s Church in Navenby.
At the time it was stated that work costing around £20,000 was needed to reline two of the church roofs. The church in Eagle previously asked North Kesteven District Council for permission to replace its roof with steel rather than the original material.
Chief inspector Phil Vickers said: “During 2019 Lincolnshire Police worked with the Lincoln Diocese and individual church premises across the county, providing site-specific advice to 53 premises as well as broader guidance to prevent offending, in addition to several hundred site visits that had been carried out previously.
“The impact of these offences goes well beyond the significant financial cost. Communities have felt a great sense of loss at the damage caused to their heritage, and increased vulnerability due to the rural nature of many of the premises .
“We know that in addition to the loss of lead, extensive damage has been caused to the fabric of the buildings by water ingress during bad weather.
“We continue to work with rural communities to prevent offending, and encourage anyone seeing or hearing anything suspicious at Heritage Sites, particularly at night but also during the day, to contact police immediately.”