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Trio face justice after lead thefts cause more than £1 million of damage to church roofs

“Removing large areas of lead or copper from roofs has not just a significant financial effect on church communities but a huge effect on their morale.”


Three men have been brought to justice after more than £1 million of damage was caused to church roofs across the country – including to one in Stamford.


Madalin Gabriel Prundaru, Gigi Prundaru and Laurentiu Rebeca stole lead from a number of churches in 2016, causing devastation to communities impacted.


One roof targeted was St Andrew's Church, Witham on the Hill, Stamford, where £150,000 worth of damage was caused.



Gigi Prundaru (right) Laurentiu Rebeca (top left), and the damage caused to St Andrew's Church, Witham on the Hill, Stamford.


But the gang were brought to justice, thanks to a complex investigation looking at mobile phone communications, ANPR cameras and other forensic work.

In total the group were charged with 100 thefts/attempted thefts from 40 different churches, and, of these, 73 offences resulted in conviction. The other offences were allowed by the court to be laid on file.


DC Andrew Woodcock of Lincolnshire Police said: “This was a painstaking enquiry into large scale organised criminality. Offences were identified through detailed investigation, piecing together mobile phone communications data, and ANPR evidence of vehicles linked to the defendants. It was identified that the defendants would travel back to London and weigh the lead in for a fraction of its true value. Nevertheless, they benefitted to around £70,000 from the offences but caused significant distress to the local communities of the churches they targeted. Some of these churches, four years later, are still completing repairs. "Although the investigation was led by Lincolnshire work was undertaken by a number of police forces and specialist forensic personnel. I thank those who assisted in the investigation which involved thousands of documents and a significant amount of technical data.”


Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England, said lead theft can cause ‘irreversible’ damage to historic buildings. He said: “The theft of metal from historic church buildings is a serious and organised crime. Removing large areas of lead or copper from roofs has a significant emotional and financial impact on those communities who care for and maintain our historic church buildings. This form of criminal behaviour can result in irreversible loss and damage, which is why tackling this problem is so important.


"The outcome of this case highlights the benefits of collaborative working between the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Historic England and members of church communities from across the country. We will continue to work in partnership when dealing with metal theft.”


Prundaru (34) of no fixed abode, admitted 31 offences and was jailed for six years and one month. Rebeca (27) of no fixed abode admitted 24 offences and was jailed for four years and 10 months. Madalin Prundaru (26), from Redbridge Lane East, Ilford, was found guilty of 18 charges and was given a 24 month community order, involving 30 days rehabilitation activity requirement and an £85 victim surcharge.


Historic England Chief Executive Duncan Wilson said: “The outcome of this case highlights the benefits of collaborative working between the Police, Crown Prosecution Service, church communities and Historic England, and is an approach we shall continue to use when dealing with metal theft.“Removing large areas of lead or copper from roofs has not just a significant financial effect on church communities but a huge effect on their morale.”


Source: www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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