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Relic raider ran off with church's treasure
6:00am Tuesday 29th October 2013 in News
POLICE are on the hunt for a man in connection with the theft of sacred church treasures.
A hoard of relics - including a sacred shard believed to belong to Colchester’s patron saint - were snatched in the raid on St Helen’s Chapel in Maidenburgh Street, Colchester.
A passer-by found the items dumped in two carrier bags.
Officers are trying to trace Justin Bond, 41, of Brooklands, Jaywick, in connection with the theft.
He failed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court last Monday been charged with that offence and five other thefts.
Father Alexander Haig, of St Helen’s Chapel, said he is delighted the items were returned.
He said: “They took three chalices and other sacred vessels but the most important thing was the reliquary of St Helena, given to us in 2003.”
“A resident found them in the street into two carrier bags, in the Balkerne Hill area and handed them to the police.
“He put his foot on a bench to tie his shoe lace and noticed these bags and looked in them and found these things which clearly shouldn’t have been there.”
The reliquary is a box containing a tiny bone shard, believed to have belonged to the patron saint.
It was gift to the orthodox church from a church in America.
The chalices and vessels had all been gifts to the church from congregation members.
Mr Haig said: “There is the emotional and spiritual significance of the items, partly as gifts and partly as sacred items.
“They have a value we cannot put on them in terms of pounds and pence.
“The relic was the most important thing. It has no monetary value but a great deal of spiritual value and thankfully that came back.”
The chapel is always open for prayer. It is believed the suspect entered in the daytime, bashed through the altar door and stole the items.
A visitor made the discovery and alerted the church house opposite.
Mr Haig said he feels sorry for the culprit for wanting a prison lifestyle.
Bond was charged with the thefts on September 23 and was bailed, but failed to appear at court last Monday.
He also faced charges Bond of stealing an iPod worth £175 and £10 in loose change, and two attempted thefts from vehicles.
Anyone who sees Bond or knows where he is can call Colchester police on 101.