Lead thieves who “violated a village” walk free from court

All Saints' Church, Misterton as been a target of repeated lead thefts, and (l-r) Volunteer Jane Moffett, of Misterton, Rev David Henson, and Church Warden Brenda Marsden show their digust. Picture: Andrew Roe

All Saints' Church, Misterton as been a target of repeated lead thefts, and (l-r) Volunteer Jane Moffett, of Misterton, Rev David Henson, and Church Warden Brenda Marsden show their digust. Picture: Andrew Roe

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THEY devastated a village by conspiring to wreck its church roof - and now they have walked free from court.

The 900-year-old All Saints Church in Misterton, suffered major damage to its roof after Ian Bonson, Aiden Gittens, Lee Jones, and Emma Jones, helped strip lead from its roof, leaving worshippers to foot a £33,000 repair bill.

And now community leaders have been left stunned after a judge at Nottingham Crown Court decided against jailing them.

They each received two-year suspended sentences for conspiracy to steal, with imposed curfews and tags. Emma Jones was also charged with perverting the course of justice.

This week, the woman who rallied the village to raise £33,000 in eight months to repair the ripped-up roof of the Grade-I listed parish church, was stunned by the sentencing.

Jane Moffett, 51, of Misterton, said: “I think they got off lightly. I’m delighted they are tagged and have curfews, but they caused such worry and heartache.

“They crippled our community and I’m disappointed they have no community service. I’d have liked them to do at least 200 hours each by way of recompense.

“Water was pouring through the roof, but the village responded in force and in the first two weeks we had over 6,500 donations.

“The community took ownership of this beautiful building and raised the money. Press coverage from the Epworth Bells was also a tremendous help.”

Ms Moffett received a Bassetlaw Achiever’s Award for her efforts, after being nominated by Bassetlaw district councillor for the Misterton area, Hazel Brand.

Mrs Brand said: “I hope now that the perpetrators will think of the huge hurt and inconvenience they caused, and will refrain from attacking other communities in the same way.”

The lead theft and subsequent £38,000 repair bill, threatened the Misterton church with closure. Insurers paid £5,000 of the bill.

The roof was put back together according to English Heritage guidelines, but further water damage to the church walls must now be tackled, with new initiatives launched to find the cash.

PC Nathan Thomas, who worked on the case, said: “By scaling roofs and power poles, and tampering with live electricity cable, criminals not only risk their own lives but those of others.

“In this case, for just a few quid in scrap value, Western Power and, perhaps more pertinently, Misterton Church were left with a damage bill amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.

“The lead from this 900-year-old building, which was never recovered, was irreplaceable in terms of what it added to the Misterton community in historical relevance and heritage.

“The cost to repair the damage will be felt for years to come.”

A thanksgiving service will take place at 11am on February 10 at Misterton Parish Church, for all those who helped to restore the building. It will be followed by “celebratory refreshments”.

Bonson, 27, of Wood View, Conisborough, Gittens, 19, of Castlewell, Conisborough, Lee Jones, 20, of Cliff View, Denaby Main, and Emma Jones, 28, of Roberts Avenue, Conisborough, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal lead from All Saints Church in Misterton over two days in August 2011, and power cabling from sites in Clarborough and Misson in August 2011 and September 2011 respectively.