HEARTLESS thieves have stolen lead from the roof of a West Wiltshire Church that was only re-roofed last year.

They stripped around £2,000 worth of lead from the roof of Shaw Christ Church but caused £6,000 worth of damage to the Edwardian building in the process.

Churchwarden Sue Evans said: "There are no words that you could print to describe what I think of them.

"They are absolute low-life to do it and I am pretty gutted that somebody could do this. It is really disappointing.

"We think it happened on Sunday evening. They climbed onto the vestry roof, which is the only single storey part of the building.

"They have caused £6,000 worth of damage for about £200 worth of lead."

It is believed the thieves used a nearby bench to climb onto the roof and strip the lead flashing from the top and gutters.

The thieves targeted the south side of the church away from the road where they couldn't be easily seen.

They even took lead from under the finial and cross on the end - damaging roof tiles in the process.

Mrs Evans added: "It's just a mess. It's going to cost us £3,000 to replace the lead and the tiles."

The church will have to claim on insurance for the theft, paying a £250 excess on its policy.

It will also need to gain permission from the Salisbury Diocese to make the repairs which could take time.

Police have listed the theft from the Grade 2* listed building as a 'heritage' crime.

Over the past year or so, villagers in Shaw raised more than £19,500 to pay for the cost of replacing 10,000 oak shingles on the spire.

Each of the shingles was inscribed with the name of someone who had donated to the project.

The Shaw Parochial Church Council received grants from the English Historic Churches Trust and the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust towards the £55,000 cost of the repairs.

The gilded cockerel was the last thing to be put back to complete the renovation at the church in July last year.

The shingles were installed by Wiltshire Steeplejacks, who came out on Monday to put a tarpaulin over the vestry roof to stop the rain getting in.

"We were really lucky I guess. I just rang the chap who did the shingles and he came out to cover it up and protect from rain.

Mrs Evans says the Shaw PCC will now have to "bite the bullet" and install an alarm system to protect the church from further thefts.

"We are looking at an alarm system that shouts "man on roof" louder and louder until it is turned off. We are also considering installing a CCTV system."