Vicar’s vigil helps save Hornchurch church

�A hero vicar and his parishioners, who slept in their beloved church to catch copper crooks decimating the roof, helped bag a suspect on Monday.

The Rev Barry Hobson, organist Andrew Losq, and resident Phil Jones took it in turns to bed down in St Andrew’s Church, in High Street, Hornchurch, after raiders targeted the upper roofing seven times in the last two months.


The crooks have caused an estimated �20,000-worth of damage to the 800-year-old Grade I listed building, which will need specialist materials for repair work.

The Rev Hobson, 54, said: “I felt angry more than anything. We decided to do something ourselves when we realised we were being targeted persistently and they weren’t going to stop until they had taken everything.”

The group, with sleeping bags and carry mats, set up a rota system based on the nights the church had been attacked in the past – then waited and watched.

Added Rev Hobson: “It was frustrating to start with. We just wanted something to happen, but we knew they would turn up sooner or later. We bedded down on Sunday at around midnight and at 1am we heard the sound of two men approaching.”

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The trio held their breath as the men made their way up onto the roof, then they quietly phoned police.

Officers, some with dogs, swooped on the church while a police helicopter circled above. A man was arrested, but a second man escaped.

Said Rev Hobson, vicar at the church for nearly four years: “It was all terribly exciting. I thought ‘fantastic, after all that hard work we might just get a bit of justice’.

“They had been taking all this Rhodesian copper, which had been there since the middle of the 19th century.

“It had survived a couple of bombs during the Second World War, so I got a little angry that these people were going to destroy all that history and heritage.”

He added: “Once all the excitement was over, I was just glad to get back to my own bed.”

A Havering Police spokesman said a man had been bailed to return to Romford Police Station on August 1 pending further inquiries.