THE ROMAN Catholic Church in Okehampton is likely to be locking its doors after a thief walked into St Boniface and stole a £700 candlestick on Sunday.

The parish priest for Okehampton and Chagford, Father Michael Koppel, said he had no idea why the item was stolen.

The candlestick was four-and-a-half feet tall, made of brass with three claw feet and a candlewax tray at the top.

'The market for that kind of item is very limited. Maybe some eccentric wanted to keep the candlestick in his home as a decoration — but the only natural place for this is in a church,' said Father Koppel.

In the short-term it may cause a decision to close the church doors except when there are services.

'In the long-term we will try to arrange some form of protection of the building and its contents. I will discuss this with security consultants as soon as possible,' said Mr Koppel, although he added he felt reluctant to see surveillance cameras inside a church.

He said although the theft from a church did not hurt any individual directly it would 'distress a large number of individuals who are affronted that someone has stolen this candlestick'.

Mr Koppel said it was 'very sad' that there were people about who were prepared to 'stoop to this kind of thing'.

He said in relative economic terms the item was not worth stealing — but the larger issue was it was stolen from a church.

'One of the attractions of going into a church is that is hasn't been stripped. Looking back over the years there was a time when churches were open because virtually no one would steal from a church.

'But over the years that has very widely disappeared — and that's why so many are locked these days. It is just the way the world is at the moment. We must hope that it does change,' he said.

If anyone has any information regarding the theft of the candlestick they are asked to contact Okehampton Police Station on 0990 777444.