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Gang of three men sentenced for stealing valuable stone from historic buildings

|News, Fraud and economic crime

An organised gang of three men have been sentenced for stealing thousands of pounds of valuable York stone from historic sites. 

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Jason Perry, 49, of Walshaw Street, Oldham, Owen Lipinski, 31, of Newark Road, Rochdale and Connor Lipinski, 28, of Gale Court, Rochdale, stole valuable York stone from eight churches between January and March 2022.

They worked together to identify targets in Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. All of the sites were historic churches in semi-rural locations.

They used stolen transit vans to get to the locations and transport the stone. Then it was sold for cash at a stone reclamation yard in Wigan. The thefts left large sections of paths unusable and significantly damaged the historic sites. 

The gang’s activities first came to light on 3 March 2022, although this was the last offence committed by the gang. 

The church warden at St Mary’s Church in Peel Lane in Astbury, Congleton, called the police when he noticed significant damage to the York stone path.

He estimated that between 80 to 90 York Stone slabs had been stolen. Police released an appeal for information and CCTV came to light that identified the two stolen transit vans used by the gang.

Tracking of the stolen vehicles eventually led police to Perry’s address in Oldham where they gained access on 4 April 2022.

Perry was there and was arrested. His mobile phone was seized. Evidence of his involvement in a whole series of thefts of York stone from churches came to light. He denied any involvement. There were also several Whats App messages linking Perry with the Lipinski brothers. They were clearly locating where they might find the stone and how and when they would steal it.

The Lipinski brothers also denied any involvement.

All three men were charged with Conspiracy to steal. Perry was also charged with handling stolen goods and driving while disqualified.

All three men eventually pleaded guilty. Perry pleaded guilty on 18 November 2022 at Chester Crown Court to conspiracy to steal, handling stolen goods and driving whilst disqualified. Owen Lipinski pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court on 18 November 2022 to conspiracy to steal. Connor Lipinski pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court on 25 August 2022, to conspiracy to steal.

Today (21 December 2022) at Chester Crown Court, Jason Perry was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, Connor Lipinski to 3 years imprisonment and Owen Lipinski to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

The stone taken has been valued at between £104,042 and £116,996.

It was taken from:

Church of All Saints Glossop Derbyshire
St Cuthbert’s, Halsall Lancashire  
St Michaels Church Aughton Lancashire 
St Ambrose CE Church Grindleton Lancashire 
Saint Mary and All Saints Church Whalley Lancashire -
Ormskirk Parish Church Lancs  
All Saints Church Grindon Staffordshire 
St Mary’s Astbury

The church warden of All Saints Church in Grindon, Staffordshire, was a key witness but sadly passed away in September 2022.

His daughter spoke of the sadness her father had felt at the theft of the stone. He had been warden there for more than fifty years.

She said: “He saw the terrible theft of the York stone flags of the church path he loved. He cared for the church throughout all my life and his life in the village of Grindon. He wanted it restored. Unfortunately Dad died, aged 83 in September, very sadly lost and he died quite unexpectedly. The least I feel we could do is bring such thugs to justice. It’s a shame, of all the funerals that church has seen, Dad’s coffin‘s pall bearers had to struggle to walk along a church path that was broken, uneven, unsightly and unsafe."

Senior Crown Prosecutor Caroline Ross of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “The criminality of these three men has had a huge financial and emotional impact on the communities affected.

“These were important buildings, both historically and architecturally. Their importance to their communities cannot be overstated. The damage was often irreparable and the stone stolen was of the highest possible quality.

“The Crown Prosecution Service worked with the police to build a strong case – the Judge has recommended that PC Stordy be commended for his work.

“The statements of the people who lived and worked around these historic buildings gave a powerful impression of the impact that these thefts have had. We hope the successful end to this case helps them to move forward.”

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