THREE men accused of conspiring to steal lead from 22 churches across Lincolnshire have appeared at Lincoln Crown Court today.
Lithuanian trio Tadas Andruska 35, Andrius Cereska, 30, and Andrius Kvedavas, 29, are also charged with stealing lead from another church in Sutterton and a Grade II listed church in Leicestershire.
They were arrested after police executed synchronised warrants at four addresses in Lincoln.
All three men spoke only to confirm their names when they appeared in the dock at Lincoln Crown Court for the five minute hearing.
The 22 churches allegedly targeted by the men between January 1 and September 24, 2011, include St Leodegar’s at Wyberton, St Peter and St Paul’s at Algarkirk, St Mary’s at Frampton, St Peter and St Paul’s at Gosberton and St Margaret’s at Quadring.
They also face charges of stealing lead from St Mary’s Church in Sutterton between April 15-18, 2011, and stealing lead from St James the Greater at Little Dalby in Leicestershire between August 23-26, 2011.
Police said the arrests were made as a culmination of a six-month intelligence-led operation into metal thefts.
Andruska, of Roman Pavement, Lincoln, Cereska, of Laceby Street, Lincoln, and Kvedavas, of Maple Street, Lincoln, were all remanded in to custody by Judge Sean Morris and will next appear at Lincoln Crown Court on 18 May.
A fourth man also appeared before Lincoln Crown Court charged with handling goods stolen from churches.
Vitalijus Vilkys, 27, of Nelson Street, Lincoln, was granted conditional bail and will also appear at Lincoln Crown Court on 18 May.
A fifth person, who police say is a 39-year-old local man, has been released on police bail until April 25.