What a steel! Churchill roof ransacked

Sarah Smith 18 October 2007

Churchill College is the latest victim of an epidemic of steel thefts causing millions of pounds worth of damage nationwide.

Over a period of several nights, thieves plundered the chapel roof of its steel coverings, causing damage which will cost the college thousands to repair.

This is a cruel blow for the college in what was supposed to be a time of celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the chapel.

Speaking just before the anniversary (Friday 12th October) the college chaplain, Rev Dr John Rawlinson, called the robberies “a disgrace”.

But he said the planned celebrations would go ahead, and would be “as joyous and upbeat as possible under the circumstances.”

The cost will be mainly due to repairing the ruined roof, not the cost of the stolen steel. In the meantime, white sheets are all that is being used to cover up the damage.

In response to this and hundreds of similar burglaries around Cambridge, Operation Saraman has been launched by the Cambridgeshire police force in an attempt to crack down on the thefts.

The project is led by Detective Inspector Martin Brunning, who said: “We are determined to catch those responsible and bring them to justice but we need the help and support of the public.”

The cause of the rise in the illicit metal trade, which has cost the Diocese of Ely £1million in the last year, is largely the huge growth in demand from Asia.

The effects of this are being felt across the country, and not only by places of worship.

Organised gangs are stripping away the metal from anything from schools to bus shelters and brass doorknobs to feed the construction boom in China and India.

Recently over one thousand pounds worth of lead roofing was stripped from the roof of West Bromwich Magistrates court prooving that no lead roof is


In another memorable case, two men spent six months in a hospital burns unit when they stopped to have a cigarette while stealing copper pipes from a house and forgot the gas supply had not been turned off.

Sarah Smith