A SPATE of raids between October and December have seen pieces of furniture by Robert Thompson stolen from rural churches in Yorkshire.
Police have appealed for antique dealers and second-hand shop owners to contact them if they are offered any of the stolen items.
The first theft happened between October 16 and 28 when an octagonal oak table bearing the Mouseman signature was taken from All Saints' Church, in Kirby Overblow. Thieves then took a Thompson table with a brass presentation plaque from the rear of the Church of Immaculate Conception in Sicklinghall, near Harrogate, between noon and 5.30pm on November 9, and a Thompson bishop's chair from Burnsall and Appletreewick Parochial Church between November 20 and 26.
A Mouseman lectern was stolen from St Peter's Church in Sicklinghall on December 2, while between November 30 and December 4 a pair of side chairs was taken from St Oswald's Church in Arncliffe.
The warden of St Oswald's has described the theft as an "attack on the church's history".
Damage was also caused to a 16th century pike staff (connected with the Battle of Flodden in 1513) in an attempt to prize it from its fixings. The church, which is built on Norman foundations, will now be locked during the day.
PC Claire Brown of the Harrogate Priority Crime Team said: "Stealing from churches is a pretty callous and heartless crime. The thefts are likely to have occurred during the day while the churches were open, and many of the items are heavy and would have required at least two people to lift them."
Anybody with information should contact PC Brown on 0845 6060 247 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.