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A man was caught on CCTV stealing a Victorian brass eagle from a church lectern, with the vicar left feeling “bereft”.

The bronze sculpture had been a feature of St Augustine’s Church, Edgbaston since it opened in 1868.

CCTV footage shows the hooded thief walking calmly past the empty pews of the church at 11.00am on Monday.

He looks around then covers the bronze eagle in a blanket before leaving the church, carrying the heavy sculpture between his legs before reportedly fleeing in a nearby van.

The Reverend Matthew Tomlinson, who had been vicar at the church for 24 years, said that following the theft, he felt “like something’s been amputated”.

He said he suspects that the theft was planned as the whole incident lasted only two minutes and the thief was equipped with a blanket.

The vicar hopes that a member of the public would have seen the man leaving the church with the relic.

West Midlands Police issued the following statement: “We're investigating after a brass eagle was stolen from St Augustine's Church, Lyttleton Road, Edgbaston, at around 11.00am on Monday (June 10).

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“We're reviewing CCTV opportunities, both at the church and in the wider area, alongside other enquiries to trace who was responsible.

“You can contact us via Live Chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote crime reference 20/572880/24.”

Stephen Hartland, churchwarden emeritus for St Augustine’s, told The Independent: “He walks in and diverts his face from the cameras. He has obviously reccied the place beforehand.

“The church has been there open every day for 160 years so thankfully this is a rare occurrence. But it is absolutely brazen.”

Hartland speculates that he chose his moment very carefully as it was just 20 minutes after the vicar left, and 10 minutes prior to the vicar returning.

He added: “I’m sure the insurance will pay out and we can get a new one - but it’s not the same, is it?

“You feel violated. The church is open because it is important to the community. He has violated that trust and every member of our congregation that finds St Augustine’s a very holy place.”

Social media users reacted to the shocking theft online. One user branded the incident as “appaling”, whilst another slammed the unknown thief as a “disgusting individual”.

“Hopefully, an honest person, should recognise that young man, even with the hood up, from his physique & walking style. Amazingly brazen action!,” a third said.

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