ARSONISTS stuffed sheets into a fridge and set fire to them during the second church break-in in a matter of days.

The kitchen of Wimpole Road Methodist Church in Colchester was destroyed in the blaze and the church hall has suffered smoke damage.

The church was first broken into on the night of January 5.

Just days later, in the early hours of Thursday morning, arsonists broke into the kitchen and started the fire.

Church staff said due to the damage to the kitchen and parts of the hall area there would be some disruption to groups which use the church, including the weekly baby and toddler group.

The fire was started at about 2am and staff said it was caused by sheets which had been stuffed into a fridge and set alight.

A passerby called the fire service after seeing the smoke.

Colchester councillor Theresa Higgins said it was a careless crime.

She added: “We have had petty crime at the recreation ground as well which is just down the road. We are not sure if it is linked or not.

“I don’t know what on earth they are thinking of by stuffing sheets into a fridge.”

She said it was a shame people who use the church for activities will have to miss out.

She added: “There is a junior rock band which uses the church to practice, now they may not be able to if the place is out of action.”

The normal Sunday service at 11am will go ahead as planned.

An Essex County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Fire crews reported that a fire within the building’s kitchen area had spread to the main church hall. Firefighters extinguished the fire by 3.45am.

“The kitchen area has been destroyed while the church hall has suffered smoke damage. The cause has been recorded as deliberate.”

The fire service contacted police at 2.20am. A spokesman for Essex Police said: “It is believed to have been started deliberately and inquiries are on-going.”

Call 101 with information.