CHURCHES in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse have been hit in a spate of burglaries.

Eight churches were broken in to between Christmas Eve and Sunday, January 6 and, while little of real value was stolen, police are linking the cases.

It is thought that in some of the break-ins, the thief was hoping to strike it lucky with the donations left in the collection plates for Christmas.

The incidents include an attempt to break into a safe in the vestry at All Saints’ Church, Faringdon, between January 2 and 3, where an intruder waited until no one was around before trying to steal donations.

The Rev Charles Draper said: “Luckily nothing was taken.

“Our theory is that someone got in while the church was unlocked and went out through the vestry door. On this occasion, the damage was not sufficient for us to make an insurance claim, but this church dates back to the 12th century and thieves potentially can cause serious damage.”

And he said further attacks could make churches reconsider their opening hours.

In a separate incident, thieves tried to break into the safe at St Peter’s Church in Little Wittenham, near Didcot, on January 5 between 10am and 4.20pm.

Burglars also smashed a window to enter St Edmund’s Church in Radley Road, Abingdon, on January 3 or January 4.

The other break-ins were reported at: l St Helen’s Church, Berrick Salome, near Wallingford, between December 30 and January 6.

l St James’ Church, Little Milton, between December 24 and December 31. l Our Lady of Lourdes, Wheatley, between December 30 and December 31.

l St Mary’s Church, Wheatley, between December 30 and December 31.

l Trinity Church, Conduit Road, Abingdon, between 11am and 7pm on December 31.

Natalie Merry, a conservation officer for Oxford Diocese, said: “Although it appears that nothing has been taken, thieves have probably caused a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage in total by damaging doors and windows to break in.”

Police released details of the burglaries when they appealed for the public’s help in trying to get more information about a white man in his 50s, of medium build with a receding hairline in dark clothing who was twice seen pushing a bike away from churches. However the police could not say at which churches he was spotted at.

Inspector Mark Harling said police were liaising with the churches and including them in their patrols. Anyone with information can call Sgt Shane Harrison on 101.