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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Bible thief steals ancient books
Vinegar Bible
A Vinegar Bible was also stolen in Devon
A thief has been sneaking into country churches and stealing ancient bibles from under the noses of worshippers, police said.

Eight antique bibles have been stolen from churches in Hampshire, including a rare example from the 18th Century.

The bible went missing from St Mary The Virgin Church in Church Lane, Twyford, near Winchester, at the end of April.

The original had been displayed in a glass case, but the thief replaced it with a fake.

Shortly afterwards, and only nine miles away, seven leather-bound volumes of the Old and New Testament were stolen from a cabinet at St John's Church in Farley Chamberlayne, near Romsey.

It should have `The Parable of the Vineyard' printed on it but instead has `The Parable of the Vinegar'
Pc Mark Smith

Pc Mark Smith of Hampshire Constabulary, said: "The bible stolen from Twyford is particularly rare and distinctive. It was printed in 1717 and contains a printing error that makes it unique.

"It should have `The Parable of the Vineyard' printed on it but instead has `The Parable of the Vinegar'.

"This obviously makes it a rare and distinctive book so anyone who has seen it would remember it.

"It is sad that we have to urge our rural churches to be security conscious but these thefts leave us with little option."

"All of the bibles were taken while the churches were open for worship to the public, so it is likely that there were witnesses to these thefts."

Pc Smith said: "These incidents are so similar that it is likely that they are linked."

The theft of a valuable 'Vinegar Bible', with the same spelling error, was also reported in Devon.

The bible, said to be worth more than 14,000, was stolen from the lectern at Clyst St Lawrence Church some time between 15 April and 6 May. It had been at the church for years.

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