A priest says he feels ‘nothing but sadness’ for a pair of masked thugs who broke into his home and threatened him with a screwdriver before locking him in a cupboard and stealing church charity money.
Father Philip Caldwell, of St Joseph’s Church in Reddish, Stockport, was forced to hand over more than £600 before being shut in a cupboard after the two men – one of whom was wearing a devil mask – broke into the church’s living quarters at around 4am on Tuesday.
The money had been donated by the community to the church’s Christmas crib collection and was due to be sent to churches in poor parts of Bethlehem.
Father Caldwell was not injured in the terrifying ordeal, but was left shocked and saddened by what happened.
He said: “I do feel sorry for them that they had to go to that length.
“What sort of situation do they have to be in to want to steal from a Parish that isn’t very rich? I feel quite sad for them.
“You just realise that you don’t want those people in your home or community.”
Fr Caldwell was woken by the noise of the men smashing their way through a glass door, and was confronted by a man in a balaclava on the landing.
Another man then appeared, wearing a devil mask and the pair, brandishing screwdrivers, forced him to show them where the donations were kept.
They also stole the parish computer, an iPhone and a watch.
Two friends who were staying at the church, Father John Paul McShane and Father Sean Wyllie, raised the alarm after hearing the commotion.
Police advised them to stay in their rooms to avoid the situation getting any worse.
Officers quickly arrived on the scene just moments after the offenders fled.
The force, which described the men as ‘the lowest of the low’, has launched an investigation.
Fr Caldwell added: “This is my first Parish, I was working in the seminary for 20 years.
“I have been made so welcome in Reddish, it’s a lovely community, especially the community of St Joseph’s, so this sort of thing is a bit of a shock.”
Police said the raiders were white.
One was wearing a red devil mask, gloves and had brown or ginger hair which could have been a wig.
The other man was around 5ft 7 and was wearing a black balaclava. He was armed with a screwdriver.
Det Con Andrew Budsworth said: “This was a terrifying robbery where the offenders really are the lowest of the low.
“They knew that they were intending on stealing money that had been donated to charity.
“The victims were left incredibly shaken by their ordeal and we are doing all that we can to help them through it and get them the justice they deserve.
“We are appealing for anyone who knows who these men could be or saw anyone acting suspiciously in the early hours of Tuesday morning, to get in touch with police as soon as possible.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0161 856 9970 or 101 – or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.