Vicar heartbroken after gang blows up safe to steal sacred silver from Dorset church

Richard Slee reports from Lady Saint Mary's Church in Wareham. He spoke to Canon Simon Everett.

A vicar has spoken of his heartbreak after thieves broke into his church, blowing up a safe to steal irreplaceable sacred silver.

It's feared that tens of thousands of pounds worth of chalices and holy items, may have already been melted down by the thieves.

Lady Saint Mary's Church in Wareham

The criminal gang struck at Lady Saint Mary's Church in Wareham last month.

The thieves got in through a window and then cut wires to the cctv.

They jemmied doors - eventually finding the safe, which was full of solid silver.

A 16th century chalice was among the items taken

Canon Simon Everett was shocked to discover the break-in: "It seems like they knew what they were looking for," he said, "but quite how they knew what was in there we don't know because we don't display it.

"We only have some of it out on very special occasions, so it's a bit of a mystery how they knew.

The door was forced and explosives used to break into the safe

"There were Chalices, which are the cups we use for wine, Plates which we call Patens, Ciborium which contain the wafers that we use in Holy Communion, so an assorted lot, not just belonging to this church but some neighbouring churches as well."

"Some of them date back to Elizabethan times so we've had them for over 500 years, Victorian items and everything in-between, so yes absolutely irreplaceable."

In total, twenty six items were stolen.

Antique dealers and auction houses are being asked to be vigilant, but as all the items are well documented, it is feared they will be melted down or sent abroad.

In total 26 silver items were taken and may have been melted down

But there has been a huge psychological impact on parishioners too.

"This is a real violation of sacred space and the desecration of a holy building so it is really upsetting," said Canon Simon. "I'm thankful that they didn't ransack the church, but nevertheless they have violated this space which is the spiritual home of the town."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police.