FATHER Dane Elsworth at ‘the lighting of the candles’ at St Cyprian’s Church. Picture: Ryan Matthew Adams
Durban - Even places of worship are not safe from the scourge of crime after thieves stole copper sheeting from the roof of a 147-year-old Durban church on two occasions this week.

The 150-year-old organ at St Cyprian’s Anglican Church on Umbilo Road was also damaged by the rain that seeped through the roof on Wednesday night.

Senior priest Father Dane Elsworth said the church “was leaking like a sieve” when he entered on Thursday.

Thieves climbed on to the roof and cut the membrane that covered the copper sheeting with a knife and a pair of scissors, both of which were found abandoned on the roof.

Elsworth said the first incident happened on Monday night.

Assessors from the insurance company were called and the leaks in the roof contained.

However, the thieves struck again on Wednesday night, leaving the church in a worse state. The paintwork inside was damaged, the recently refurbished wooden floors were destroyed, and the rain left a gaping hole in one part of the ceiling.

“In the old days, the roofs were sealed with copper and then covered with another building material.

“I have no idea how the thieves even knew there was copper in the roof,” he said.

Father Elsworth said the church had been hit hard in recent years by criminals.

All the copper taps and electrical wiring was stolen, leaving the church without any external lighting. Before that, all the copper downpipes were stolen in an overnight raid. There have also been at least eight break-ins at the administrative office.

Elsworth also remembered on one night, at about 3am, he heard sounds on the roof of his home, which is on the church property.

“I was in bed. I looked up and there was a man with a brick in his hand, ready to drop it on my head,” he said.

Brass memorial plaques were also stolen from their Remembrance Garden, forcing the church to replace them with cheaper, plastic-like plaques.

“People have become so brazen. This is a church and even churches aren’t safe anymore. The police really need to start looking into those who buy scrap metal because those owners should be asking the people where they are getting the copper from,” he said.

Elsworth said they were looking into implementing cost-effective security measures, but the church property was so big that they were concerned at the amount required to properly secure the area.

“If anyone has any ideas or wants to offer help in any way, we would appreciate it.”

The Mercury