A SCRAP metal firm helped police bust thieves who stole 169 memorial plaques from a church yard.
Quick-thinking workers at Eric France and Son in Ossett took down the names, addresses and car registration details of two men who tried to cash-in the brass plaques on Wednesday.
The plaques had been stolen from a memorial garden at St Mary’s Church in Mirfield last Friday.
Police who followed up on the information tracked down the men and recovered the plaques, but they had been too badly damaged to be put back in the garden.
Jonathan France, from the Church Street company, said: “Our operatives in the yard are ever-vigilant of things they think might be suspicious. The characters arrived with what they wanted to weigh - what they purported to be genuine scrap - whilst we thought it was anything but.
“Rather than making them aware of our suspicions, we duly recorded all their details and once they had left the premises contacted the police.”
The thieves had removed the inscriptions from the plaques and bent them out of shape, but eagle-eyed staff at still recognised them for what they were.
The plaques, which cost around £100, are bought by families to commemorate their deceased relatives who have been cremated.
Mr France said they would have had “significant” scrap value.
He added: “In the 21 years I have been here I can only think of one similar occurrence. Honesty and integrity have always been our watch words. Ours is not an industry which often gets good press but we are open and honest and were happy to help the police.
“If everybody in the industry took a collective responsibility it could go towards stopping metal thefts, but unfortunately not everyone is as scrupulous as we are.”
The Rev Hugh Baker from St Mary’s said: “I was shocked by the theft. There is no way they can be restored, so although it is wonderful news that the police have tracked them down and thieves might think twice in the future, we are still going to have to find a way to replace the plaques.”
Two men have been arrested in connection with the thefts and have been released on police bail.