Desecration of Eversholt village war memorial as thieves steal iconic angel statue

Eversholt villagers are releasing a desperate plea for the return of their stolen war memorial and local landmark.

A bronze statue of St Michael the Archangel used to stand proudly over the names of those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, but on Tuesday, June 18, a resident noticed it was no longer in its home in the grounds of St John the Baptist Church.

The statue was designed by a local artist, Edward Aveling-Green (1842 - 1930) and unveiled in 1921 along with the memorial, always holding a special place in the heart of the village.

Resident Venetia Barrington, said: “It’s a very precious statue.

“It’s on top of and watches over the memorial, which has the names of those who lost their lives during the war; there are people in the village who have relatives on there.

“Whoever it was has desecrated our memorial, something that stands within a burial ground.

“It’s totally disrespectful. At the moment there’s so much going on to mark the anniversary of the wars it somehow makes it even more disrespectful.”

However, this is not the first time the 3ft statue has been stolen.

St Michael the Archangel was taken in 2000 and turned up in Islington, London.

Luckily, an antiques dealer had come across it, suspected foul play, and notified the police.

Now, villagers are praying that the same will happen again, and that a member of the public may be able to help St Michael the Archangel return to his rightful place.

Venetia said: “After it was returned it was secured back in place with two metal rods.

“But whoever has done it this time has taken it off so cleanly.

“It was definitely there on Sunday but on the Tuesday it was gone.

“It’s irreplaceable - obviously the artist is no longer alive anymore.”

Edward Aveling-Green lived in a house in the village called Berrystead and his style is described as being of the Arts and Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite movements.

There are a collection of his paintings inside St John the Baptist Church, as well as a big mural depicting a group of angels.

A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman, said: “We were called just after 5pm yesterday (Thursday) to a report that a large bronze statue had been taken from the churchyard of the Church of St John the Baptist in Eversholt.

“It was taken some time between 6pm on Monday (June 17) and 10am on Tuesday (June 18).”

Chief Inspector Andy Southam, from Bedfordshire Police’s community crime team, added: “This is a distinctive and unusual item which we hope people will recognise if they come across it.

“We appreciate the level of community concern there has been following this incident, and we are committed to thoroughly investigating this theft.

“I would ask anyone who was in the area at this time, or who may have seen anything suspicious or unusual, to contact us, regardless of how insignificant they may think it is.

“In particular, I would ask anyone with a dashcam who may have been driving in the area to review their footage to see if anything may have been captured on the nearby roads.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to contact police on 101, or via the online reporting centre at: www.bedfordshire.police.uk/report, quoting reference number 40/34894/19 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.