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Teenager arrested in connection with hate crime arson attack at Catholic church

PUBLISHED: 23:03 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:41 31 March 2018

A man lit multiple fires inside St Mary’s Catholic Church on Tuesday and left a satanic image at the alter. Photo: St Mary's Catholic Church

A man lit multiple fires inside St Mary’s Catholic Church on Tuesday and left a satanic image at the alter. Photo: St Mary's Catholic Church

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A 17-year-old has been arrested in connection with an arson attack at a Catholic church in Great Yarmouth.

An arsonist lit several fires and left a satanic figure on the altar at St Mary's Catholic Church in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Keith MorrisAn arsonist lit several fires and left a satanic figure on the altar at St Mary's Catholic Church in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Keith Morris

A man lit multiple fires inside St Mary’s Catholic Church on Tuesday and left a satanic image at the alter.

The incident, which took place at around 11.30am, was caught on CCTV and has been described as a hate crime by police.

Footage shows a man running through the church on Regent Road with an item on fire.

He attempted to burn a sacred icon he took off the altar and replaced it with a picture of the devil.

Father Anthony Nwankwo and Brian Lafferty with the icon the arsonist damaged. Picture: Keith MorrisFather Anthony Nwankwo and Brian Lafferty with the icon the arsonist damaged. Picture: Keith Morris

Police in Great Yarmouth have now confirmed that a 17-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident on Thursday evening.

The man is in custody and will be questioned by officers.

Speaking about the arson attack, parish priest, Father Anthony Nwankwo said:“I was shocked and saddened when I discovered what had happened. My immediate thought was to get some holy water and use it with prayer to nullify what the person had done.

“If people do not like what we do here they can just stay away. Such an attack on our church can never succeed. We will not close the church, but to use the altar and sanctuary we need to go through a service to reconsecrate the area.”

An arsonist lit several fires and left a satanic figure on the altar at St Mary's Catholic Church in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Jacob MasseyAn arsonist lit several fires and left a satanic figure on the altar at St Mary's Catholic Church in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Jacob Massey

Bishop of East Anglia Alan Hopes said the person responsible was already forgiven.

He said: “I am very saddened by what has happened, especially in Holy Week which is the most important week in the church’s year.

“I am hoping it is not a hate crime, but whoever did it needs to know that he is already forgiven because that is part of who we are as Christians, but we pray that this won’t happen again.”

Brian Lafferty, who has been a parishioner for 33 years and is on the parish council, said he was appalled.

St Marys Catholic Church, Yarmouth has been the victim of an arson attack.

Picture: Nick ButcherSt Marys Catholic Church, Yarmouth has been the victim of an arson attack. Picture: Nick Butcher

He said: “I have never seen anything like it before and it is quite disturbing really; there is no room for it in today’s society. If you want to celebrate like that and worship other gods there are other places you can go. Here, we worship the one God.”

Investigating officer PC Lewis Gilmore said: “We are treating this very seriously and it is being investigated as a hate incident. We do have CCTV which is being examined as part of our enquiries.”

Anyone with information should contact PC Gilmore at Great Yarmouth Police Station on 101, or alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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