Midhurst thief stole from Rogate church

St Peter's Church at Terwick near Rogate. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (050913-0569)
St Peter's Church at Terwick near Rogate. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (050913-0569)

A THIEF has been sentenced after stealing from a “vulnerable” parish church, items which included a memorial plaque donated by a widow in memory of her late husband.

The man who stole more than £2,000 worth of goods from the church will now be electronically monitored to ensure he complies with a daily curfew.

Robert Michael Burdon, 33, of Southdown Close in Midhurst, was sentenced at Worthing Magistrates Court to a community order, meaning he must comply with specific requirements of a daily curfew.

On October 7 last year, Burdon stole an oak church table and two coffin stools to the value of £2,500 from St Peter’s Church, Terwick.

Not only were the items costly, they also carried significant sentimental value.

The two antique carved oak coffin stools had been in the church ‘for as long as can be remembered.’

The small oak table had a brass plaque on it in memory of St Peter’s treasurer John Best, and had been donated to the church by his widow.

Burdon will now be monitored for the next six months, and has been ordered to pay a compensation fee of £1,500.

The requirements of his curfew state he must remain at his home in Midhurst between the hours of 7pm-7am.

Having originally entered a not guilty plea, Burdon changed his plea to guilty during his trial.

He also failed to surrender to custody in Worthing, “without reasonable cause,” having been released on bail during criminal proceedings.

Parishioners arriving for evensong at St Peter’s Church were shocked when they discovered last year that the church had been the victim of a callous theft.

Speaking at the time of the incident, Churchwarden Ann Arnold said: “At first we thought some animal had been responsible, then we noticed some missing items of furniture.

“There was a horrible moment when we realised the church had been burgled.”

“It’s horrible to think someone could go into this sacred place and do something like this, but it is the policy of the churchwarden to keep the church open for visitors.”

In his sermon The Rev Edward Doyle said: “We make ourselves vulnerable, but the church has to be open as part of its purpose.”