March 25, 2021 2.09 pm This story is over 15 months old

Man jailed for Christmas raid at Grantham church

Community shocked by festive sacrilege

A burglar carried out a Christmas morning raid on Grantham’s St Wulfram’s Church after smashing an historic stained-glass window.

Lee Gray caused more damage inside the renowned church before making off with cash and a safe which contained valuable books together with confidential documents.

Lincoln Crown Court was told that just hours earlier Gray, 38, visited the church on a “scouting mission” to check out what was inside and how to get in.

Luc Chisnall, prosecuting, said: “Ten hours later he returned at 3.55am when he made good his plan to break into the church by kicking in a stained-glass window which was a particularly precious item.

“In doing so he gained entry onto the roof of the parish office and he climbed through the window.

“Shortly after his entry he disabled the closed-circuit television system.

“He made an untidy search, undoubtedly looking for money. He stole a safe which contained a relatively small sum of cash but also some valuable documents.”

Among the items taken was an original manuscript of a book about St Wulfram, the patron saint of the church.

Also taken were the banns of marriage for the area, instructions from parishioners for their desired funeral arrangements, cash from a collection box and a number of sets of keys to the church building.

The stained-glass window, which had been paid for by a local benefactor and installed during a 19th century refurbishment of the building, cost £6,500 to replace and the church had to spend a further £5,000 on replacing the locks.

The total cost of the damage and the items stolen was £15,229.

Mr Kwong said: “The reaction of the church and community was one of shock and dismay this being seen as a sacrilege occurring on Christmas morning itself.

“The volunteer members of the Church Council and others within the church spent a substantial amount of Christmas Day and the following days dealing with the aftermath of this. The effect of this is that Christmas 2019 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.”

The court was told that Gray had 20 previous convictions for a total of 46 offences.

Gray, 38, of Welham Street, Grantham, admitted burglary on Christmas Day 2019 and was jailed for two years.

Judge Simon Hirst told him: “The circumstances of this are so serious that it can only be immediate custody.”

Joey Kwong, in mitigation, said “He is ashamed of himself. He does not remember what happened as he was so high.”

He said Gray has changed his lifestyle since committing the burglary.

Mr Kwong said: “He is living with his partner. He has kept out of trouble and he is no longer taking drugs.”

Detective Sergeant Remy Simon of Grantham CID says: “Breaking into a church in the early hours of Christmas Day morning really shocked us.

“It showed a total disregard for the church, the local community and Gray’s actions couldn’t have been more incompatible with the spirit of the season.

“We welcome this sentence and will continue to protect our communities from those that seek to swindle from our properties and residents in Grantham.”