Two jailed for stealing stone from churches

Three men have been sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing York stone from churches in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire.

Jason Perry, 49, from Wallshaw Street, Oldham pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to steal stone, driving whilst disqualified and handling a stolen vehicle. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Connor Lipinski, 28, from Gale Court ,Rochdale admitted the conspiracy to steal stone at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Owen Lipinski, 31 from Gale Court, Rochdale also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal stone. He was handed a 15 month suspended sentence.

Between January and March 2022 the men had taken historic York stones from St Mary’s Church, Astbury, Cheshire; Church of All Saints, Glossop, Derbyshire; St Cuthberts, Hassall, Lancashire; St Michael Church Aughton, Lancashire; St Ambrose CE Church, Grindleton, Lancashire; Ormskirk Parish Church, Lancashire and All Saints Church, Grindon, Staffordshire .

All the churches affected were of historic significance, with four being grade one listed. The restoration costs came to over £125,000.

Their spree came to an end when officers from Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team identified Perry’s vehicle during their investigation into the theft at St Mary’s Church in Astbury. Perry’s vehicle was caught on CCTV at the church leading them to more and more evidence linking them to the crimes.

Raids were carried out on Wednesday 27 July at addresses in Middleton, Oldham and Rochdale by officers from Cheshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team with the assistance of colleagues from Lancashire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and Greater Manchester Police. The Lipinski’s and Perry were arrested simultaneously in the raids.

They were later charged with the conspiracy to commit the thefts and Perry was also charged with handling a stolen motor vehicle and driving while disqualified.

The investigation identified the location the stolen stone had been sold on to, which meant officers were able to arrange the return of some stone to three of the effected churches. A supplier of illicit number plates was also identified, searched under warrant and shut down. All three involved stolen vehicles were also recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

PC Rob Stordy said: “By working together with other forces and with the expert help and advice from Historic England, we have brought these men to justice for pillaging our rich history.

“These crimes impacted the heart of our rural communities and left most of the paths impassable due to the damage the men had caused by removing the stones.

“I hope today’s result sends a message to thieves that rural crime is taken extremely seriously. We will do all we can to get justice for our rural residents and keep Cheshire a hostile environment for criminals.”

Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy at Historic England said: “The outcome of this case highlights the benefits of collaborative working between the Cheshire Constabulary, Crown Prosecution Service, church communities and Historic England and is an approach we shall continue to use when dealing with the theft of historic stone.

“The theft of stone from historic church buildings is serious organised acquisitive crime.

“Removing large areas of paving from church buildings has not just a serious financial impact on church communities but a significant impact on their morale.

“The stone stolen in this case will have historic and cultural value and its removal can lead to irreparable loss and damage not just to individual communities but to the whole nation, which is why tackling this type of heritage crime is so important.”

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