Sunderland synagogue targeted by metal thieves

criminal damage: George Fraser with the tool he thinks was used by thieves to remove two metal lamps from the front of the former synagogue on Ryhope Road, Sunderland.

criminal damage: George Fraser with the tool he thinks was used by thieves to remove two metal lamps from the front of the former synagogue on Ryhope Road, Sunderland.

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THIEVES have targeted a historical building which is waiting to be renovated.

Two large copper lamps were ripped off from the front of the former synagogue in Ryhope Road, Sunderland.

Businessman George Fraser bought the listed building two years ago, after it fell into disuse when the city’s Jewish congregation dwindled.

Now he says the property has become a target for vandals, despite having on-site security.

George said: “It’s just never ending. It’s every week the police get called. There were squatters in there and they started the damage, but I managed to get them out.”

George believes it was professional thieves who made off with the lights.

“These have not been pinched by kids. They have been taken to order.

“I would say they were about eight or nine feet off the ground.

“We had a big water butt for the bricklayers and it was missing. I went round the front of the building and they had used that to get up.

“It is somebody who has pinched them for the copper.”

The synagogue’s owners decided to put it on the market after it had stood empty since holding its final service five years ago.

Designed in the 1920s by Marcus K Glass, a little-known Jewish architect from Newcastle, the grade-two listed building has suffered a number of vandal attacks since its closure.

George, who is offering a reward for information which leads to the thieves being caught, has been granted planning permission to covert the nearby menorah school into two three-bedroom properties.

But he is still in consultation with Sunderland Council over the future of the former place of worship.

He said: “It would make nice luxury flats. I did have someone from London interested in turning into a recording studio.

“I have someone living on site, but two weeks ago about 5.30am, someone tried to kick his door in.

“They were two boys aged about 17 years old.

“We have a camera that they ripped off and threw in the trees, but I found it and we’re still waiting for the police to come and get it.”

It is thought the copper lamps were taken about a week ago, between Thursday and Friday.

Twitter: @janethejourno