Shocking CCTV shows the moment a churchgoer broke into a choir room and stole thousands of pounds of valuables from young musicians during a Sunday mass.
The lowlife thief was caught on camera ransacking the back room of historic All Saints Church in Northampton as oblivious worshippers sat just metres away.
Church rector Father Oliver Coss said the man had "accepted a hymnbook and a warm welcome" and sat down on the pews at around 10.30am on Sunday (29/9).
But during the service he sneaked away and used a crowbar to force his way into the locked room where he began plundering possessions.
Shockingly, he pocketed the belongings of four children, including a nine-year-old chorister, who was left "very upset" as she worried her parents would be angry with her.
The crook stole a total of eight bank cards, a mobile phone, a backpack, a Calvin Klein wallet, purses, £160 and 80 euros in cash and a Macbook Pro laptop.
Fr Coss said: "He came into church looking dishevelled.
I didn't think I had seen him before but we are an open building and people come in and out.
We didn't suspect him.
"He took a hymn book and sat down as if to spend Sunday service with us.
"He waited until the choir processed down and when he knew the room was empty and the service in progress, he crowbarred his way into the choir room and thieved with enthusiasm from kids.
"It's more disturbing that it was so calculating.
He knew when we would be distracted.
"It wasn't a lucky strike.
I would think he planned it after reconnoitering the church.
"We have been left angry and anxious by what's happened.
"He has got away with over two thousand pounds worth of stuff and hundreds of pounds has been spent on the cards in shops.
"Two of the victims are adults - one an assistant organist and the other a volunteer and singer in the choir.
"Four are under 18 - two are 17, 16 and 9.
They are choristers who have come through our programme and left their stuff behind closed doors.
"Bank cards, wallets, cash and a mobile phone were stolen.
One man lost a Macbook Pro, quite an expensive bit of kit, and a bag of sheet music which is also expensive.
"Ironically an anti-theft backpack was taken.
"The older ones are fairly resilient but they are shaken up by it.
"The nine-year-old was very upset because she was worried about what her parents would say.
She lost a Samsung smartphone and a purse." Northamptonshire Police say they are now investigating the theft but Fr Cross has criticised the force's response.
He said officers are yet to catch the suspect despite him being identified by members of the public.
Fr Coss added: "We discovered the theft within an hour on Sunday and I posted CCTV stills.
Almost immediately I got reports from people who recognised the man.
"They were standing behind him in supermarket queues as he spent money on the cards.
"It was startling that Northamptonshire Police couldn't send someone to find him.
"I think they lacked the boots on the ground because of serious incidents and flooding that day.
"Their response has been inadequate and it feels like solving this crime was put down their list.
"Only last week a critical report was published about them.
We haven't heard anything from them since Sunday.
"We are in the business of praying for criminals and there is space for forgiveness, but stealing from kids is not right and we want to see justice.
"We have replaced a couple of locks and provided a secure place for the choristers to put their stuff.
"We will keep our doors open because a church that closes them has failed in its duty.
"But we will be more suspicious of people and that will make it harder for us to trust them." A Northamptonshire Police spokesperson said: "We received a report of the theft shortly after 11:30am on September 29 and we are still investigating the incident." Witnesses or anyone with information can contact the force on 101 and quote incident number 19000 520160.