Belfast Telegraph

Burglars smeared Derry church in excrement

A prosecution barrister told Judge Philip Babington that the incidents occurred on September 12, 2017 (stock photo)
A prosecution barrister told Judge Philip Babington that the incidents occurred on September 12, 2017 (stock photo)

By George Jackson

Scenes of human defecation were found inside a church in Londonderry, a court heard.

Details of the break-in at the Church of Ireland's Christ Church building were revealed as two men admitted their involvement at Derry Crown Court yesterday.

One of the men defecated inside the church's boiler room and human excrement was smeared on the church organ and on pages ripped from a Bible.

The disclosures were made at a plea and sentencing hearing for Harry Duffy (25), from Elmwood Terrace, and James Anthony Kennedy (24), from Glenside Park.

Both men, who had previously clear records, admitted burgling the church and stealing items including a crystal decanter, a surplice and a set of reader's robes. They also admitted damaging church fittings and fixtures.

A prosecution barrister told Judge Philip Babington that the incidents occurred on September 12, 2017. An estimated £75,000 worth of damage was caused by the defendants, for which the diocesan insurers had paid £58,500.

He said it was accepted that it was not a hate crime motivated by sectarianism.

The two defendants had removed metal mesh covering a 19th century stain glass window, smashed the window and entered the church.

They damaged the church organ, smeared excrement on it and on pages they ripped from a Bible, and stole items of a sentimental value. None of the items were recovered.

The barrister said CCTV footage from the scene showed the defendants entering the church grounds at 8am. They left the scene at 10.24am with Duffy carrying a rucksack.

Both men then returned to the church at 11.15am before leaving it two hours later. Both men were identified on the CCTV.

Duffy's defence barrister Sean Doherty said the fact that the incident was not inspired by hostility might provide some small amount of solace to the congregation.

He said Duffy had sustained a serious brain injury when a child which had impacted on his cognitive abilities.

Mr Doherty said Duffy, because of his mental disabilities, had a limited understanding of the sanctity of church.

Defence barrister Stephen Mooney, acting for Kennedy, said it was a hateful offence, but not a hate offence.

He said Kennedy, who has an IQ of 109, was an intelligent person who had dropped out of the education system when young.

"He was mercilessly bullied at school as a result of which a promising academic career went by the wayside and he took refuge in drink and drugs," he said.

Judge Babington will sentence both men next Tuesday.

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