Brentwood church rave: More than 130 images released in appeal
- Credit: Essex Police
The hunt is on to find more than 130 people suspected of breaching Covid restrictions at a New Year's Eve rave in an East Horndon church.
In what Essex Police say is the largest number of people they have appealed to identify for one single investigation, the force have released pictures of 133 people in connection with the event at All Saints Church at the beginning of this year.
It is also most likely the only force in the country to issue as many images in relation to a Covid breach.
In January, the community was in uproar after an estimated 400 people gathered at the church to celebrate the new year.
At the time the county was in Tier 4 - effectively lockdown - and it would be just days before the national lockdown came into place.
Hospitals were braving the worst of the second wave, with ambulances all over London and Essex queuing to drop off sick patients and with ITUs at full capacity.
The church was also left with thousands of pounds worth of damage.
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However, within a few days, incensed by the incident, the community came together to raise nearly £25,000 for repairs through a fundraiser by Rev Paul Hamilton and volunteer Astrid Gillespie.
The money has also been put towards additional security measures and to fix a priceless stained-glass window damaged during the unlicensed music event.
Police who arrived at the rave say the partygoers locked themselves into the church and then threw things at officers.
But bodycams on their uniforms were recording and meant every person who came near was captured, now singled out to be circulated and identified.
Ch Insp Ant Alcock, district commander for Brentwood and Epping Forest, said: “Issuing these images is an unusual step but it highlights the seriousness of the incident and public health threat it posed.
“At the time, infections were rising quickly, a ‘major incident’ had been declared here because of the pressure on our NHS, and nationally there were around 50,000 positive tests a day.
“This event wasn’t just a clear and blatant breach of the government’s Covid-19 regulations but a very real public health risk as well as a slap in the face to all those making sacrifices to do the right thing.
“If you attended the event or recognise any of those pictured, now is the time to do the right thing.”
Anyone who attended the event would receive a fine.
Four people have been arrested in connection with the incident and another, a 32-year-old man from Wickford, was given a £10,000 fine after admitting being an organiser.
“Those who attended the event were selfish and had not thought of the risk of spreading Covid-19, nor had any respect for the historic building they were in," Ch Insp Alcock added.
All Saints Church is over 700 years old and dates to Tudor times.
The Rev Canon Hamilton said: “To those that broke into our church and messed it up, we extend the hand of forgiveness and friendship, but please don’t do anything that silly again.”
Astrid and Rev Canon Hamilton were awarded the Digital Heritage Hero Award for their fundraising efforts.
Sponsored by specialist heritage insurer Ecclesiastical and now in its 11th year, the annual Heritage Heroes Awards is the Heritage Alliance’s celebration of the outstanding contribution Britain’s heritage volunteers make to society.
The virtual awards ceremony coincided with an event with speakers including chair of Historic England Sir Laurie Magnus and minister for digital and culture, MP Caroline Dinenage.
Astrid, from the Friends of All Saints' Church volunteer group, said: “It means so much to all of us from the Friends of All Saints’ to have been given this award and to have the support of the Heritage Alliance.
"We have been overwhelmed with the love and support from everyone who has been involved in helping us to raise money for us to repair the damage at the church."
You can view all the images and submit information on the Essex Police website: www.essex.police.uk/ume