Have-a-go hero detains Nelson church lead thief

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A CHURCH lead thief did not reckon on an angry neighbour, who confronted and detained him until police arrived, a court heard.

Pennine magistrates were told how Neil Langley was caught red-handed stripping lead flashing from St Paul’s Church, Nelson. Eagle-eyed Jon-Paul Fawcett, who lives in the street adjacent to the church, had been watching football on television when he spotted Langley, was appalled and went out to put a stop to his law breaking.

Mr Fawcett punched Langley, who he thought might have a cutting tool and was going to hit him, and held on to him while shouting for others to call the police. Langley, who had broken a window, was subject to a suspended jail term, imposed in April for common assault, at the time.

The defendant (30), of Pine Street, Nelson, admitted theft on June 13th and has now been locked up for 12 weeks. The Bench told him it was “because of the seriousness” of his behaviour.

Mrs Alex Mann (prosecuting) said at 8-30 p.m., Mr Fawcett was watching football when he realised something was going on outside his home. The prosecutor said: “He was disgusted somebody would steal from a church.”

Mr Fawcett went out, recognised the defendant and shouted: “What do you think you are playing at, nicking from a church?” Langley denied he was stealing and claimed he was putting something back, but Mr Fawcett told the defendant he had been watching him.

Mrs Mann said Langley started waving his arms about and Mr Fawcett, knowing lead usually had to be cut, thought the defendant may have a cutting tool. Langley went close up to Mr Fawcett, who panicked as he believed he was going to hit him, and struck the defendant to detain him. Langley tried to run off, but Mr Fawcett managed to keep him there by grabbing his jeans. Mr Fawcett shouted at three women nearby to call the police and held on to the defendant until officers arrived.

The prosecutor said: “The church warden says lead was missing and other pieces of lead were loose. It will cost a substantial amount of money to fix.”

Mr Ben Leech (for Langley) said he had very little recollection of what happened. He had been in a pub and got in some trouble either inside or outside of it and tried to escape by going into the churchyard. He believed his drink may have been spiked.

The defendant admitted to police he had taken lead and was aware of its worth. He had previously had a drug problem. The solicitor added: “He knows the precarious position he finds himself in.”