Anger as thieves strip church pathway

Whitechapel Church have had flagstones stolen from their grounds. Philip Hardill / Rev Brunel James / Tom Pinder. (D521G433)
Whitechapel Church have had flagstones stolen from their grounds. Philip Hardill / Rev Brunel James / Tom Pinder. (D521G433)

A congregation is up-in-arms after thieves made-off with flagstones from a graveyard in Cleckheaton.

Twenty-six slabs, thought to be worth around £5,000, were stolen from the bottom half of Whitechapel Church’s pathway at around midnight on Wednesday, August 13.

Police were called by a woman who lives across the road from the church after she spotted a small, red van in the area.

The blow came just after the church held a memorial service for their long-serving late choir singer Ewart Rymer.

Rev Brunel James, 43, said: “People who are enterprising enough to turn up in the dark in a van and lift and steal flagstones can make a legitimate living. It’s out of all proportion, what they are gaining to what we are losing.”

Churchwarden Tom Pinder, 76, thinks the crime was carried out by professionals because the stones weighed around two tonnes.

Spenborough British Legion branch chairman Eddie Morton said: “There aren’t sufficient expletives to describe the individuals who carry out these thefts.”

Members of the church have criticised the police’s response, believing that the weight of the stones would have meant the thieves were in the yard for a long time, possibly making two trips.

Insp Neil Money, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “On August 13, we responded to a report of theft from a graveyard in Cleckheaton which was called in by a member of the public.

“Having spoken to my officers, I am satisfied that a thorough investigation was carried out at the scene.

“An officer has since spoken with the person who made the initial calls and explained what checks were made and the results of our investigation so far.”

He added that the police are grateful to members of the public who report crimes and that they always try to get to the scene as fast as possible.

Stones were stolen from the top half of the path at the Whitechapel Road church four years ago.

Tom said: “Thefts of lead and stone were rife two or three years ago. It makes you wonder if there’s another spate.”

Insp Money urged anyone with information about the theft or who saw a small, red van with a silver roof rack in the area on August 13 to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Enquiries are ongoing.