POLICE have hit out at thieves who stole a lightning conductor that kept a church congregation safe.
An 8ft piece of copper was ripped from the side of St Oswald’s Church, in Brougham Terrace, Hartlepool, on Saturday night.
The 106-year-old building had suffered at the hands of vandals only weeks ago when it was daubed with black spray on October 18.
The marks were just starting to fade on the stone walls when the latest damage was done.
Police say there has been a spate of thefts from buildings across the town, with crooks weighing in the metal items they take as scrap.
Police community safety officer Karl Gippert, of Hartlepool Police, said: “This lightning conductor was in place to keep the church congregation and those using the building safe from the elements.
“It’s terrible that thieves would steal from a religious building that’s used by many members of the local congregation. I would appeal for anyone with information to get in touch”
Parish priest, Father Graeme Buttery, said he has been quoted £220 to replace the safety strip and that the church will struggle to find the funds.
Fr Buttery said: “They’ve taken 8ft. It’s a sizeable amount and is obviously important to the safety of the church.
“I’ve been quoted £15 a foot and then we have clips and brackets to buy. It won’t be covered by our insurance because of the excess, so we will have to find the money ourselves. The church is not wealthy and it will be hard to raise the funds.
He added: “The marks left from the graffiti are only just starting to fade.
“They’ve also done a bit of damage when they ripped the conductor off the wall.”
PCSO Gippert can be contacted on (01642) 302178 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.