LEAD thieves have targeted a historic church twice in the space of a few days.

They first struck at St Mary the Virgin in Bocking sometime between last Sunday night and Wednesday morning.

But they returned to finish the job a few days later, after builders put a temporary plastic covering over the remaining lead to protect the building from rainwater.

Rev Tristan Chapman said the church has been the victim of lead theft once before in the last two years, and the repair bill this time could be more than the £5,000 it cost on the last occasion.

Each time, the thieves have targeted the roof above the 14th century porch.

The latest thefts have left 12th century metalwork on the porch doors exposed to the elements. However, the main church building is not affected.

Mr Chapman said: “Because St Mary’s is a very highly listed building, English Heritage won’t let us replace the lead with anything but lead.

“And the insurance won’t cover any more thefts this year.”

It means the congregation will have to foot any bills for further thefts.