ANGRY churchgoers at a village near Stafford who say they are "under siege" from criminals have offered a £500 reward to catch thieves who stole valuable brand-new lawnmowers.
The thieves broke into a reinforced shed in the grounds of the historic St Editha's Church, in Church Eaton and took three lawnmowers and two grass/brush cutters.
Church warden Michael Evans said the church had been "under siege" from criminals for years.
"This is the second time we have had all our mowers stolen," said Mr Evans, 74.
"After the first theft the insurance company advised us to buy a particular type of metal shed with a secure lock on it."
He said the shed continued to be attacked year after year. The thieves were unable to get in, but damage meant the door had to be replaced several times, and the church added metal bars and covered padlocks.
"This time the thieves got into the shed as if they were opening a tin of sardines," Mr Evans said.
"We had bought new equipment for this season and it is really upsetting to have it stolen, particularly as our dedicated team of volunteers do such a good job of keeping the churchyard looking nice and we get so many compliments on it."
Bellringer and volunteer gardener David Mullard, 69, added: "It is just dreadful. This is a lovely spot and we spend lot of time keeping it looking nice."
And volunteer gardener Justin O'Doherty, 68, who is also the Newsletter's community news correspondent for Church Eaton, added: "A team of six of us work on the churchyard's upkeep and we are all very upset."
The items stolen were a Stihl FS90 brushcutter, a Stihl FS 56C grass trimmer, a Honda Mountfield SP 555Mower, a Honda IZY 18in self drive mower and an AL-KO 250 lawn mower.
Anyone with any information about the theft is asked to call the police on 101 quoting incident number 225 of July 29 or contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.