Ex-addict speaks at Romford church he stole from

Sitting in a car, outside a Romford venue he was due to talk at that evening, Tony Bennett was petrified.

The church that the 28-year-old reformed addict, who stole to buy drugs, was meant to be speaking at had changed at less than a day’s notice.

Tony was out to speak about the work that the Hope for Havering night shelter does in the community.

But in the car with charity founder Kim Merry, outside the Trinity Methodist Church in Angel Way, he realised he was coming face-to-face with former victims of his.

He recalled: “I said “I can’t go in there, that’s the church I nicked the lead of off.”

Just over a year earlier, Tony had been given a conditional discharge for stealing the material from the church’s roof.

He was later sent to prison for six weeks for shoplifting, but began rehabilitation with the help of Hope for Havering in June, and had become one of the charity’s speakers describing the good work it does.

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About the night of the talk he said: “I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to leave. But Mrs Merry said “Just go in there, everything will be alright.”

“I said a prayer in the car which helped me out.

“I didn’t want to face the Rev, but I pulled him aside and explained to him that I was one of the people who stole the lead.

“He listened, he was a really nice guy. A normal person might have the raving hump, but he spoke afterwards and said “don’t worry about it the Lord has forgiven you.””

Trinity’s Minister, Rev Armstrong Fummey, said: “He said he was one of the men who came to steal from the roof, but that now he has given his life to Christ, he’s a new person and he wanted to let everybody know.”

And facing other members of the congregation went just as well.

Rev Fummey said: “It was very positive, it was a wonderful experience. That’s one of the things we do in the Church, we help people change their lives and create a better life for themselves and for the community.

“Most people were quite impressed with his honesty. As Christians we are pleased to see he’s changed and can be an example to other people.”

Tony added: “I was very happy with how it went, it was definitely something I needed to go through.”