France: 80-year-old arrested over theft of 3,000 church statues, crucifixes and religious icons

Crucfixes and other religious artefacts were stolen from churches.Pixabay

Two elderly people have been arrested in a Paris suburb in connection with the theft of thousands of objects from churches.

One of them is an octogenarian known to have anti-clerical views while his neighbour, who is in her 60s, has only recently been baptised.

More than 3,000 religious objects including statues and crucifixes were recovered from their homes in the southern Paris suburb of Bagneux. They ranged in value from cheap candles to valuable old Russian icons.

The pair were caught after a parish priest worked out the timing of their raids and alerted the police.

Father Ludovic Serre said: "As soon as I put a cross out on the altar of confession, it would disappear." He added that when the crib was taken from the Christmas nativity display in December "it was too much and I filed a complaint".

Serre said: "At the home of the octogenarian, the toilets were absolutely full of crucifixes, there wasn't so much as a square centimetre of space."

He said the thieves seemed to run to a schedule, arriving "every four or five weeks, on Sundays between 4-4:30 pm".

"I told the police that, according to my calculations, they should return on February 21. And they did! Although half an hour early," he added.

The investigators followed the two suspects to their homes and they were arrested.

Serre's church is now protected by a video surveillance system.