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Can you help identify man suspected of causing £500 of damage at Hornchurch church?

PUBLISHED: 12:03 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:04 23 August 2017

Three Stations of the Cross were damaged by an intruder at St Mary's Church, Hornchurch on Saturday morning. Top: The arms of Jesus Christ were snapped off a depiction of the Crucifixtion. Photo: Matt Clemenson

Three Stations of the Cross were damaged by an intruder at St Mary's Church, Hornchurch on Saturday morning. Top: The arms of Jesus Christ were snapped off a depiction of the Crucifixtion. Photo: Matt Clemenson

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A search is underway for a man who it is believed made his way into an empty church on Saturday and caused hundreds of pounds of damage to religious statues.

Three Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt ClemensonThree Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt Clemenson

On Saturday morning, an intruder made their way into St Mary’s Church on Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch and caused an estimated £500 of damage to religious artefacts.

Bizarrely, although the intruder was not interrupted, he only damaged three of the Stations of the Cross, before taking a fire extinguisher from the wall and spraying it over the altar steps.

One of the depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion appeared to have had the messiah’s arms snapped off.

He also broke a golden bell which has since been repaired, but left a large crucifix nearby totally untouched.

Three Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt ClemensonThree Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt Clemenson

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that officers are investigating a case of criminal damage at the church.

He said: “The damage is believed to have occurred between 7.30am and 10.20am on Saturday.

“A number of religious wooden statues were broken and a foam fire extinguisher let off.

“Damage is estimated at around £500.”

Three Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt ClemensonThree Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt Clemenson

CCTV at the church shows a large man with dark hair and a beard approaching the church at 9.24am, wearing a dark hoodie and track suit bottoms.

Timestamps show the man spent less than six minutes inside the church, before coming out, rolling up his sleeves and moving off down Hornchurch Road towards Roneo Corner.

Church staff believe he was the only person to enter the premises on Saturday morning before the damage was discovered.

A spokeswoman for the diocese of Brentwood told the church was weighing up its options on how best to replace or repair the Stations of the Cross.

Three Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt ClemensonThree Stations of The Cross were damaged when a man broke into St Mary's Church, in Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch, and commited an estimated £500 of criminal damage. Photo: Matt Clemenson

She added: “It’s very early days, and the parish keeper is actually on holiday at the moment which isn’t making things any easier.

“The insurers are involved now and we are hoping to get some help getting the statues repaired, so with any luck we won’t have to try and fundraise the money ourselves.

“It’s a bizarre thing for someone to have done.”

The police confirmed no arrests have been made and inquiries continue.

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