A man has been jailed after causing more than £13,000 worth of damaging while burgling Chester Cathedral.
John Armitage, 50, of Canberra Way, Chester, was jailed for two years after he admitted burglary and criminal damage at Chester Crown Court.
On Monday 3 September Armitage was captured on CCTV walking towards the Cathedral at 9.40pm. He climbed into the Cathedral via Abbey Square and later, at 00.18am, smashed a stained glass window in the cloisters area of the Cathedral before he used a fire extinguisher to smash open a donation box, stealing £40. Armitage was then seen at 00.43am leaving the site.
The next morning the cleaning staff at the Cathedral discovered substantial damage to the stained glass windows in the cloisters and in another area of the Cathedral known as the ‘Slype’. The windows date from the 1920s and are unique. They depict the patron saint of the Cathedral St Werburgh.
Police arrested Armitage after his wife called police to report him missing and found him in bed, with injuries consistent with a fall. An officer who went to his address spotted a discarded Arsenal shirt which he had earlier seen the burglar wearing on the CCTV footage.
Armitage was taken to hospital and arrested when he was discharged.
In interview Armitage said that he had broken into the Cathedral because he owed someone money. He said that whilst climbing into the Cathedral he fell around 25ft and knocked himself out.
When he came around he took money from the wishing fountain in the garden but because he had injured himself he said he was forced into smashing a window to get out of the Cathedral. He said once he was in the cloisters he saw the collection box so took the money from that as well.
He said that he then spent the money himself.
Detective Constable Roger Smith said: “Armitage has caused a significant amount of damage to a religious building and destroyed a unique and historic window, just to fish a few coins from the fountain.
“The sentence passed shows that the courts take the destruction of heritage sites very seriously and Armitage now faces Christmas behind bars.”