Thieves broke into a church and used a priceless gold crucifix to break into a steal just £30 in cash.

Dan Pierce, 39, a team vicar for the Billericay Team Ministry, was saddened and shocked when he received the news of the break-in at St Mary Magdalen Church, High Street.

He said: “The cleaner came in and found there was a broken window and the vestry had been completely turned over. We think there were three guys who did it.

“They pulled up outside in a car, but they did not spot the CCTV cameras when they went in.

“They used the cross to try and prize the safe from the wall, in doing so, they broke and bent the crucifix.

“Ironically, that was probably the most expensive thing in the church, and they left it there.

“Just shows what kind of thieves we were dealing with.”

Dan, a former security guard, said that the thieves, who he could only describe as in their 20s, escaped the church with a set of speakers which the group use for church events as well as the cash, which they took from the safe.

He felt that the incident could be seen as a worrying sign for people living in Billericay.

However, Dan found it very strange that they had not thought to take the crucifix.

He said: “It is very distressing to have this happen in the middle of the high street.

“Of all the things they took, they left the most valuable, and I do not mean symbolically, it is probably the most valuable object in the whole church.

“It is a bit of a modern day parable, they went for wealth, they have been destructive but left the most important thing.”

Gary Bott, a fellow pastor and leader of the Billericay Schools Ministry, said that despite the acts that the men committed, he felt there must be a reason for why they committed it.

He said: “You never know when it comes to these things why they have done it. It could be because of drugs, they have debts to pay or just because they need money to buy food.”

Essex police were unable to provide the Echo with a comment.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 - or alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.