A four-foot tall brass lectern in the shape of an Eagle, which was stolen from a church in Wiltshire, has turned up in Romania.
The ornate artefact, which had been taken from the Holy Cross Church in Ashton Keynes last September, was spotted at a Romanian antiques fair, complete with a plaque engraved with the name of the church.
Ashton Keynes locals were convinced that they had fallen victim to thieves targeting scrap metal to be melted down.
But the £2000 reading desk appeared intact in a Romanian village.
Churchgoers were stunned when they heard that someone had contacted Wiltshire Police to report it had been found in the Eastern European country.
The well-wisher emailed a picture of the unusual centrepiece to the Police, after noticing the inscription.
Villagers now hope that with the help Interpol, the lectern can be returned.
PC Steve Harvey, who received the email from Romania, said it came "completely out of the blue".
He said: "I thought it was a scam email but it had a mobile number on it. So I called the person, who didn't speak very good English, and he said he'd seen this unusual piece in a village in Romania and when he looked at it, he noticed the Ashton Keynes engraving.
"He searched the internet for some sort of news report and eventually ended up emailing me.
"We're now working with Interpol and I'm reasonably confident it will be returned."
Thought to be around 100 years old, the lectern was taken from the church in broad daylight, and the news that it has turned up has raised questions about the possible involvement of foreign gangs in the growing number of scrap metal thefts.
Holy Cross Church treasurer Gaye Horrell said: "It was too heavy to move around and the church is locked at night so it must have been dragged out of the church in broad daylight."
Now while parishioners rally round to find a way of getting the lectern home, questions are being asked about how to secure it against future attempts to steal it.
The discovery comes in the wake of new figures released by Ecclesiastical Insurance, who reported that more than 2500 churches made insurance claims after having been hit by metal thefts in 2011.
The insurers have urged churches to do everything in their power to guard against theft of metal from roofs and other parts of their buildings, by installing alarms and marking areas with smart water.
January 9th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross