Northern Ireland news

Dog walker thwarts theft from north Belfast church

Sean Cummings who disturbed thieves as they tried to remove a large brass ornate plate from the side of the derelict Church of the Resurrection on the Cavehill Road. Picture by Mal McCann.

THE theft of an ornate brass plaque from a disused Catholic church building was thwarted after the robbers were disturbed by dog walker.

The heavy plate was the last thing of value still attached to the Church of the Resurrection on Cavehill Road in north Belfast which has been blighted by vandals.

An 8ft tall bronze statue of the resurrected Christ had already been taken by thieves earlier this year, while large bronze doors inside the church were removed from the the hinges and cut up.

The doors, which were estimated to be worth around £40,000 and were commissioned specially for the church, were irreparably damaged and in March police said they believed the statue had been stolen "over the last few weeks".

Sean Cummings was walking his dog past the building when she went in to sniff round the ground of the empty building shortly after 9am yesterday.

Damage caused to the derelict Church of the Resurrection on the Cavehill Road when thieves tried to remove a large brass ornate plate from the side of the building. Picture by Mal McCann.

"She was sitting there just watching, with the fur on her back raised and this guy who had been standing near just walked off casually, went out the entrance and got into a van.

"I went to see what he had been doing an saw one of those big massive signs was hanging by one bolt and part of the rail had been cut off."

He alerted the police who were "there within minutes".

The church has been derelict since 2008.

A spokesman Down and Connor said "security patrols" around the building had been brought in and "other plaques had already been removed for safekeeping".

"It was one of the last remaining," he said.

"The church has not been in use for some time."

Police, who have appealed for information, said entry was gained by four unknown males into a church in the area" and they "are believed to have made off in a blue Transit van style vehicle".

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