A COMMUNITY’S spiritual leader has talked of the “anger and dismay” across a community after the thefts of paving stones from the hallowed ground of two churches.

Rev Canon Sharon Jones who heads to The Saddleworth CE Team, was commenting after the ancient stones were taken from Saddleworth Parish Church, Uppermill, and Kilngreen, Diggle.

She said: “There is anger and dismay at the theft of flagstones from Saddleworth churches and across the Oldham area.

“Theft of this kind causes anxiety and sadness, particularly at a time when churches are struggling financially to maintain precious places on behalf of the communities they serve.”

The parish church currently has a restoration fund to replace and restore valuable sections of the church from falling into disrepair.

And outraged villagers took to social media go condemn the thefts which saw more than 20 flagstones removed from the parish church.

One post accused thieves of “trying to steal our heritage” and another said: “ They’ll be taking our gravestones next.”

Reports that thieves may have used a drone to survey the scene prior to the thefts have been discounted but one local said: “The thieves made a determined effort to remove as many stones as possible,”

A GMP spokesperson confirming the Diggle theft said offenders stole a number of Yorkshire flag stones from the church grounds.

“No arrests have been made. Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting incident number 1353 of 06/08/19.

“Reports can also be made anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."