Belfast Telegraph

Man reported to police by mum over criminal damage and theft at church denies all charges

By George Jackson

A man has denied breaking into a church and defecating on Bible pages.

James Anthony Kennedy was arrested on Wednesday on charges linked to the burglary of a Church of Ireland property in Londonderry last month.

Kennedy (22), a restaurant worker from Glenside Park in Derry, was reported to police by his mother after she identified him on CCTV images of two suspects made public by the PSNI, the city's magistrates court heard yesterday.

Mr Kennedy has no criminal record.

He is charged with "entering as a trespasser Christ Church at Infirmary Road and stealing a priceless crystal decanter, a reader's robe, an organist's surplice and communion wine".

He is also charged with causing criminal damage to a stained glass window, to a church organ and Bible and to the church boiler room.

The defendant denies committing the offences on September 12.

A detective constable told District Judge Barney McElholm that the total amount of damage caused to the church building and its contents was between £75,000 and £100,000 - but that amount excluded the damage caused to the church organ.

The officer said the burglary was reported to the police at 4.45pm on September 12 by the Archdeacon.

She said someone had defecated on the floor of the boiler room and entry to the church had been gained by smashing a stain glass window with a fire extinguisher.

Inside police found criminal damage caused to several church items which had been donated by the families of now deceased congregation members.

"In the church boiler room the police found pages which had been ripped from the church Bible. It contained fecal matter which had also been smeared on the organ and pipes. The bottle containing the communion wine had been shattered," she said.

The police witness said that CCTV footage from cameras in the nearby Brooke Park showed two men climbing over the church fence, leaving the building two and a half hours later and returning to the building one hour after they had left.

"We had no positive suspects until Wednesday of this week when stills of the CCTV were made public by the police," she added.

"We later received a phone call from the defendant's mother who said she had recognised her son on one of the images and she brought him to Strand Road Police Station."

The defendant denied being inside the church building but admitted being inside the church grounds.

The officer said when he was shown the CCTV images the defendant said: "It looks like me", but he later added: "I was not in the church."

She said when asked if the offences were motivated by sectarian or hate reasons, the defendant replied "no comment".

She said DNA seized from inside the church and boiler room had yet to be forensically analysed.

Applying for bail, defence solicitor Paddy McGurk said the defendant, who attended the police station voluntarily, denied absolutely any involvement in the offences.

"He has expressed his revulsion at the acts carried out," Mr McGurk said.

"He is absolutely horrified as is his family. There is nothing in his background of a sectarian nature.

"His mother is married to a man of a Protestant faith and he has many friends of the Protestant religion. He wants to express to the court his absolute horror at what happened."

Mr McGurk said it could take many months for the forensic investigations to be completed.

The District Judge said while there was evidence which placed the defendant in the immediate vicinity of the church, there was none to place him inside the church.

"It all depends on the forensic evidence as to whether or not he can be placed in the church," he said.

The defendant was released on his own bail of £500 together with a surety of £750 to appear in court again on November 2.

His bail conditions include not being within 200 metres of either Christ Church or Brooke Park.

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