BUNGLING thieves who were disturbed attempting to strip lead from a church roof quickly made their getaway - but left their ladder and a hammer behind.

Their unholy bloomer at the Grade I listed Church of St Mary, in Westonzoyland, took place after services on the evening of last Sunday (August 11).

Their sinful efforts were thwarted after they set off the roof alarm, alerting villagers.

They scarpered down their ladder and fled into the darkness before a search party arrived with torches to investigate.

John Hallett, for St Mary's Parochial Church Council, said: "In daylight next day it was clear that the lead was in the process of being rolled back ready for removal.

"It was also seen that the thieves had fled quickly leaving behind their ladder and a hammer.

"It is not clear what they were going to do with the lead as it is specially forensically marked with SmartWater, which identifies its origin and ensures that no reputable scrap dealer would touch it."

The roof has been extensively refurbished in recent years to protect this historic church and its world renowned mediaeval carved ceiling and its modern Battle of Sedgemoor Visitor Centre.

Mr Hallett added: "The responsibility of repairing the roof lead now falls on the parishioners, a very unwelcome outcome, but thankfully the extensive roof alarms prevented more serious damage.

"The police were unable to help us on this occasion, but if the perpetrators would like to reclaim their ladder and hammer, I’m sure they would be pleased to see them."