CHURCH burglars hurled a rock through a £5,000 stained glass window ... to steal just £2 from the collection box.
The raiders struck in the early hours at St James’s Church in Riding Mill, Northumberland.
They climbed through the gaping window and wrenched open a wall-mounted collection box containing £2. They then ransacked the vestry in the search for more money, but found nothing, leaving a trail of chaos.
Last night a police chief branded the break-in “disgusting and cowardly”. And church vicar, the Rev Canon Alison White, said: “They got £2 and we’ve got thousands of pounds worth of damage.”
The lower half of the irreplaceable window, dating back to the early 19th century, was shattered, and reconstruction experts will now be called in to see if it can be pieced together again.
Rev White said: “We have collected absolutely every shard of glass and we will take their advice on whether it can be put together again. But we just don’t know. The top half is intact but the bottom half, about two feet in length, is in smithereens.
“It is a window of the Venerable Bede, and is in memory of the Reverend Canon Richmond, who was vicar of this church from 1895 to 1919. It is very historic. Who knows what the exact cost will be?
“The window is on the north side of the church, concealed from public view, and that is where they gained entry. They also caused chaos in the vestry, and it is pretty clear that they were looking for money, but there is none kept in the church.”
Chief Inspector Peter Reeve of Northumbria Police said: “This really is a disgusting and cowardly crime. There is no place in our communities for anyone who behaves in this way and we need to trace those responsible. Their actions have caused thousands of pounds of damage to the church, all for the sake of a couple of pounds kept in a collection box.
“I urge anyone who knows who is responsible for this, or anyone who may have seen anything suspicious near to the church, to contact us.”
St James’s Church, which stands in the heart of the quiet village, was built in 1858 as a Chapel of Ease to the parish of Bywell St Andrews, to enable parishioners to attend services more easily.
It became the parish church of Riding Mill in 1975 and is described as “a beautiful example of Victorian gothic village church architecture”.
County councillor Anne Dale bemoaned the attack, saying: “It is very sad that this type of incident has occurred. The church is very much loved by the residents, and I hope that the police manage to find the culprits as soon as possible.”
Northumbria Police says the theft happened between 6pm on Monday, May 14, and 7:50am Tuesday, May 15. Officers ask anyone with information to contact them on 101 ext 69191.