Historic church targeted by thieves

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CHURCH elders are appealing for residents to keep an eye on Mearns Kirk after it was targeted by thieves for the third time in just over a year.

The Newton Mearns church, which will celebrate its bicentenary next year, was first hit last summer when lead was stolen from the roof of the church hall.

Kirk authorities replaced the lead with galvanized zinc – thought to be much less valuable and more difficult to remove.

However, the kirk was hit once again in January, this time losing all the lead from the roof of the three flat extensions added to the building in 1932 – the roofs in question had just been repaired in 2011.

Strathclyde Police were informed and stepped up night-time patrols, while the kirk left its floodlights on until the clocks changed in April.

It was arranged for the remaining copper and lead to be removed from the two roofs previously targeted, but the chancel was considered safe because it is significantly higher.

Fabric convener John Henderson told The Extra: “We thought that would be the end of it. However, on Friday morning of last week, we noticed that the lead from the chancel roof had also been taken.

“We suspect the theft must have taken place between midnight and 3am, when it was dark”.

He continued: “This is all costing us a lot of money, and unfortunately for the last three years or so, the Church of Scotland’s insurance policy has not covered the theft of metal from church buildings, because it’s so prevalent.

“It’s particularly upsetting, given that we’ve just embarked on a campaign to raise funds to improve the building, in connection with next year’s bicentenary.

“We hope to encourage greater local vigilance and deter anyone from thinking that Mearns Kirk represents easy pickings”.

Police enquiries are ongoing, and East Ren community police inspector Campbell Crawford has appealed to anyone who notices strange activity to make contact as soon as possible.

He told The Extra: “Officers are providing extra patrols around all places of worship within East Renfrewshire. Unfortunately we are seeing a rise in the number of lead and metal thefts from churches and other public buildings due to their high resale value.

“We would appeal to all members of the public to be aware of any such activity in their area and to report it to the police.

“It is better that we check it out and find it’s a false alarm, rather than not have it reported and allow another theft”.

Anyone with information can contact police on 532 5700.