Monday, 16 July 2018

‘Evil’ vandals attack church

VANDALS broke a stained glass window in an “evil” attack on a church, writes Janine Rasiah.

VANDALS broke a stained glass window in an “evil” attack on a church, writes Janine Rasiah.

The window at St Margaret’s Church in Harpsden has been cracked in several places and there is a small hole where the glass has been forced upwards.

The attack happened sometime in the 24 hours before 6pm on Monday.

The three-light Victorian window depicts the crucifixion with Mary and John standing either side of the cross and it is the central panel that has been damaged.

Churchwarden Valerie Nicholson said: “It is sheer and utter mindless vandalism and it is very, very sad that people would stoop so low and do something like this to a church. I find it hard to believe that somebody could be so evil.

“Something heavy has been thrown with great force at that window to cause such considerable damage. This is a deliberate happening, this is no accident.”

Mrs Nicholson, who has worshipped at the 12th century church for 30 years and has been churchwarden for the last eight, said: “I don’t know if they thought they would choose a prominent window so that everyone would see it or if it is somebody picking on the church.

“I can’t even imagine the mindset of somebody who would do that to a church. It is beyond me. It is supposed to be a place of peace and serenity and it has been vandalised.”

Verger Pat Needham noticed the damage on Monday evening when she was carrying out her daily checks before locking up.

She said: “I went in and did the usual checks and then I sat down quietly at the back and looked up at the window.

“I thought I could see a very bright star in the middle of it but I hadn’t got my glasses on. I put them on and saw there was light coming through the window. It was very clear that it had been damaged.

“I felt extremely sad that anybody would do something like this because it is a central point that everybody looks at when they are in the church.” Mrs Needham is convinced that the church was targeted. She said: “A lot of churches are targeted and the people who cause the damage are never found. We have had a few cases of vandalism and thefts in my time but nothing as serious as this.”

Rev Paul Bradish, rector for the benefice of Shiplake, Harpsden and Dunsden, said: “It is very sad and disappointing that someone should want to do something like this. I am not sure why they would want to do so but I would love to chat to them and find out.”

Police are investigating the attack and the church committee has notified its insurers. A loss adjuster is due to assess the cost of repairing the damage.

Mrs Nicholson said: “We have no idea how much it will cost but it won’t be cheap as it requires specialist work.

“It won’t be perfect — we will always be able to see the cracks — but hopefully the repairers will be able to do a fairly reasonable job and make it look lovely again.”

Services at St Margaret’s will continue as normal and the church will remain open during the day. Mrs Nicholson said: “It is not going to affect the life of the church.

“I don’t think anyone would cause damage during the day because the risk of being seen is quite high.”

Rev Bradish said: “I know that St Margaret’s is a place of solace and quiet for a number of people and we don’t want this one incident to stop that.” The church was also vandalised in January when a bookcase near the entrance was pulled away from the wall in order to gain access to the coin collection behind it.

Hymn books and church booklets were scattered all over the floor but the church committee decided not to report the incident to the police as no permanent damage was caused.

Mrs Nicholson hopes somebody will come forward with information about the latest incident.

“We hope that somebody might be able to help,” she said. “It might just be that somebody was walking past or somebody heard something as it must have made quite a noise.”

Insp Mark Harling, head of Henley police, called the attack “despicable and pointless”.

He said: “What on earth is the point of smashing a window anywhere, let alone in a church?

“I hope the criminal who has done this has reflected on their behaviour. The chances of us being able to solve this crime are relatively slim but we will do all we can to do so.”

Anyone with information should call Thames Valley Police on 101.

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