THIEVES in the Ledbury area made sure they went to church during the Easter holidays, if only to strip the lead off the roof, or to target a donation box.

Bosbury's associate vicar, the Revd Nicky Seabright, only realised the lead had gone when she was "rained on" during a Good Friday service, when the weather took a turn for the worst.

Mrs Seabright, who revealed it was the second time that lead had been taken from Bosbury Church roof in six years, called the latest incident, "an act of hideous theft and sacrilege" and she said one idea would be to used a different roof covering than lead to repair the damage.

She added: "We can't keep feeding someone's lead obsession. I just felt sickened when I realised it had happened again."

Possibly choosing Good Friday as a suitable day for their venture, intruders set a ladder against the wall of Holy Trinity Church in Bosbury, climbed up to the chancery roof and stripped it of £10,000 worth of lead.

But the cost to put it right could cost far more than that, and the church is currently consulting with its insurers.

Mrs Seabright said crenellations on the chapel had been damaged by the thieves, and drain covers had also been damaged "where they dropped the ladders".

Police estimate that 18 metres by 15 metres of lead was taken and that the offenders must have used "a trailer or large enough vehicle to transport the lead away from the scene", because so much was taken.

Thieves also targeted St Bartholomew's Church in Much Marcle, on Easter Bank Holiday Monday.

They broke a padlock off an honesty box and make off with "a small amount of cash".

The news of the two incidents has been met with dismay by Cllr Annette Crowe, who organises the PACT meetings for the Ledbury area.

She said: "It's disgusting when thieves target churches. The congregations often raise money for the upkeep of these old buildings, which are expensive to maintain, and then people come along and take the lead.

"I had hoped that taking lead off church roofs was a thing of the past. It's the lowest of the low to target churches, and possibly on Good Friday too. It beggars belief."

Police say the lead theft at Holy Trinity Church, Bosbury took place between 8.30pm on Wednesday April 12 and 6pm on Friday April 14, which was Good Friday.

A police spokesman said: "The offenders used a ladder to climb up the chancery chapel roof where they removed a large quantity of lead measuring approximately 18 metres x 15 metres."

Police are seeking witnesses are sought in connection with this theft, and officers would also like to hear from anyone who has been offered lead for sale.

Anyone with information should call West Mercia Police quoting incident number 0226S 150417.

The theft at St Bartholomews Church, Much Marcle between 11am and 6.30pm on Monday April 17.

A police spokesman said: "Offenders entered the unlocked church and broke off a padlock to the honesty box for payments and donations, and stolen some cash from inside.

"We are appealing for anyone who may have seen people at the church between the times given who may have been acting suspiciously."

Anyone with information are asked to call West Mercia Police quoting incident reference 0629S 170417.