Homeless man who burgled an Sidmouth church in a UK-wide crime spree is jailed

Mihaita Rosca, aged 26, who burgled Exmouth’s Holy Trinity Church, has been jailed after admitting b

Mihaita Rosca, aged 26, who burgled Exmouth’s Holy Trinity Church, has been jailed after admitting breaking into 17 churches across the UK, causing tens of thousands of pounds damage. - Credit: Archant

A homeless man who broke into 17 churches and caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage has been jailed.

Mihaita Rosca, aged 26, who burgled Exmouth’s Holy Trinity Church, has been jailed after admitting b

Mihaita Rosca, aged 26, who burgled Exmouth’s Holy Trinity Church, has been jailed after admitting breaking into 17 churches across the UK, causing tens of thousands of pounds damage. - Credit: Archant

Mihaita Rosca smashed his way into most of the churches by throwing rocks through stained glass windows and once inside he ransacked them looking for money or computers.

He chose the churches because they were easy targets which he knew would be empty at night and travelled around Britain carrying out his burglaries.

Rosca paid for an extended summer holiday by stealing cash from collection and charity boxes and selling off the other items he stole.

He started his crime wave in Weymouth, Dorset, then moved to Devon, where he struck in Sidmouth, Exmouth, Exeter, Tavistock, Newton Abbot and Teignmouth.

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He then moved to Suffolk, where he raided churches at Henstead, Beccles and Ipswich before raiding three more churches in London, including one where he used a rope to scale a wall to reach a courtyard.

He was caught because he left DNA or fingerprints and after his arrest he gave police ‘treasure map’ style directions to find a buried hoard of loot in a field off School Way in Okehampton.

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Romanian-born Rosca, aged 26, whose last address was in Swindon, admitted to 13 burglaries in Devon and Dorset and asked for three more in East Anglia and four in London to be taken into consideration.

He was jailed for two years by Recorder James Freeman at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:”You had nowhere to go in this country and no money so you chose to break into churches. These are places which are left with nobody in overnight and rely very much on voluntary staff to keep them running.

“They are operated on a shoestring and are obviously vulnerable to people like you. The damage done and property stolen run into thousands and thousands.

“The means of entry was not very professional and you caused a disproportionate amount of damage. The premises were ransacked while you were inside. You targeted churches and small businesses.”

Miss Caroline Bolt, prosecuting, said the break-ins happened at churches all over Devon and at a cafe and a golf centre in Teignmouth in June and July last year. He moved on to Suffolk in September and London in December.

He used rocks to break stained glass to enter many of the churches, where he smashed open doors to vestries, bell towers and offices looking for things to steal.

Police found candle wax on the floor of one church because he had lit candles so he could search for things steal. He left DNA on windows, tools he used to force open doors, and mugs which he used to help himself to tea and coffee.

Miss Bolt said: “We say that greater harm was caused by these burglaries because of the ransacking and the significant damage that was caused. The churches were seen as easy targets.”

Rosca raided the Methodist church at Torrington on June 30 last year some time after it was locked up at 8pm. He broke the window with a rock and left a trail of candle wax across the floor as used a ceremonial candle to light his search.

He caused £2,000 worth of damages and helped himself to tea and biscuits before stealing a projector, laptop, remote control, and DVD. He was traced by DNA on a pair of pliers.

The break in at Holy Trinity in Exmouth was between July 5 to 8. He made a small hole in the stained glass to get in and caused £7,500 worth of damage to doors in the organ loft and vestry during an untidy search.

He took cash, a camcorder, two tower computers, a laptop, set of speakers and a wheelchair, with a combined value of £4,079.

Three nights later he broke into St Giles and St Nicholas’ Church in Sidmouth through a stained glass window and damaged internal doors before taking a video recorder and laptop which were being used to run the CCTV system.

He was caught by DNA which he left on a computer lead as he unplugged the kit.

Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said Rosca is Romanian and originally came to Britain three years ago and lived and worked in Swindon.

He went to live with his mother in Italy early last year and when he returned to England he found himself with ho money, no friends and no home, and turned to crime.

He said:”I asked him why he burgled churches and he said it was because he knew there would be nobody there. There was no method. He was simply stealing to maintain himself.”

The burglaries were at:

June 2017:

St John’s Weymouth, cash stolen, door damaged.

St Michael and All Angels, Dinham Road, Exeter, £700 projector stolen, stained glass damaged.

St Thomas, Exeter, CCTV hard drive stolen, stained glass damaged.

Holy Cross in Crediton, nothing stolen, £1,400 damage to window, internal doors and floor boards.

Methodist Church in Torrington, projector and DVD player worth £400. Glass and internal fittings damage £2,000.

July 2017:

The Catholic Church in Tavistock, cash and relic stolen, value £45, window damaged.

St Andrews Church, Ashburton, £20 cash stolen, £200 damage to stained glass.

All Saints, Newton Abbot, £40 cash stolen, £500 damage to stained glass and a door which had a candlestick embedded in it.

St Michael’s Church, Teignmouth, collection box and £395 iPod stolen, £2,775 damage to windows and doors

Holy Trinity Church, Exmouth, cash, wheelchair, monitor, camera, three computers stolen, total value £7,500; stained glass and doors damaged £4,079.

St Giles and St Nicholas, Sidmouth, £200 laptop stolen; stained glass damaged.

Beachcomber Cafe, Teignmouth, £1,700 computers and £4,126 cash stolen.

Adventure Golf, Teignmouth, staff wages and £2,400 computers or phones stolen.

September 2017:

St Mary’s Henstead, Suffolk.

Whitton Church, Ipswich.

St Michaels, New Market, Beccles.

December 2017 - January 2018:

St Pancras Old Church.

St Mary’s Neasden.

St Mary’s West Drayton.

Daphna Estates, NW 10.

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