BURGLARS are believed to have used a child to help them break into a Sheffield chapel to steal the boilers and pipes - before the raiders left the historic building filling with gas.
More than £4,000 of damage has been caused to Upper Wincobank Chapel, Wincobank Avenue, Wincobank, but the church council said the escaping gas could have caused an explosion.
Penny Rea, a member of the council, said: “It could have been so much worse.
“Fortunately, occupants of the chapel house next door raised the alarm and contacted the key holder to turn the gas off.”
Describing the crime, she said: “It seems somebody prised open a kitchen window leaving a tight gap which the police said was so small it might have been a child sent in to open a fire door.
“Then they stole both boilers and pipework, which was only installed in 2007 as part of modernisation of the chapel.”
“We have been quoted at least £4,000 to rectify the damage and we are in discussions with insurers.
“Although this is terrible, the chapel will still continue to function and we are planning events for the Queen’s Jubilee.”
Gwendoline Balding, chairman of the Upper Wincobank Chapel Trust, said: “This is really upsetting.
“We have worked so hard to make this a welcoming place that the community can use.
“Young people raised the money to install the heating system. Now just a few people with no thought for others, have caused such damage and distress.”
As well as worship, the chapel is used for local activities such as a youth club and coffee mornings, which have been held since the break-in on Tuesday, May 8, with plug-in oil heaters used to keep the building warm.
However, some other events have been cancelled, depriving the chapel of some income.
The chapel is a Grade II-listed building which dates back to 1841, when it was originally built as a school.
Worshippers believe the Eco TEC Pro Vaillant Combi boilers may have been stolen to order and are urging anyone with information to call police.
South Yorkshire Police said the neighbour was alerted to the burglary on hearing a ‘banging noise’ and seeing two males outside the chapel at about 10.35pm.
Other males were believed to have been inside, he said.
Nobody has been arrested in connection with the crime.
Anyone with information about the break-in is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 quoting incident 1285 of May 8.
n UPPER Wincobank Chapel is hosting events to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on the weekend of May 26 and 27.
On Saturday, May 26, there will be Maypole dancing on the village green and a brass band in the garden.
People are invited to bring along their 1950s memorabilia and photos to be photographed and scanned for the Wincobank Archives.
On Sunday, May 27, at 2pm the new May Queen will be crowned in the chapel.