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Police are continuing to appeal for help to identify those who attended an unlicensed music event on New Year’s Eve, causing significant damage to a church in East Horndon.
Hundreds of people attended the event at All Saints Church in breach of the Government’s COVID-19 regulations.
Since images of more than 130 people were released on Thursday, police have received information potentially identifying eight individuals, including one who has come forward to self-identify and admit to the offence.
At the time the event took place, the county was under Tier 4 regulations, a ‘major incident’ had been declared and communities had been unable to see their loved ones over the holiday period.
When officers arrived at the church, the doors were barricaded. When they got inside, they were verbally abused, spat at and had objects thrown at them.
Chief Inspector Ant Alcock, District Commander for Brentwood and Epping Forest, said: “There were people behind the doors trying to prevent us getting in.”
Drinks and objects were thrown at officers.
Ch Insp Alcock added: “There were a couple of hundred people in there and it wasn’t a comfortable place for officers or anybody to be in, being in that environment, on a dark hill in the middle of nowhere with that kind of aggression.
“Police officers are human beings too and we do our job to help people and keep them safe.
“Those who attended the event were selfish and had not thought of the risk of spreading COVID-19, nor had any respect for the historic building they were in.
“They were also diverting our officers from victims of crime and people who needed our help that night.
“In the weeks surrounding this event, officers from Brentwood had brought a vulnerable person to safety and imprisoned an arsonist who could have killed a number of people with their dangerous act. This is what we, and the public, want us to be doing.
“By following the rules and safety measures in place to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19, everyone can do their bit to keep each other safe and allow us to do the job we do best.”
All Saints Church is over 700 years old and dates back to Tudor times.
Members of the public have donated nearly £25,000 to the church after a fundraiser was set up for £2,000 to put towards the clear up and repair bills.
The money has also been put towards additional security measures and the repair of a priceless stained-glass window damaged during the unlicensed event.
The Rev’d Canon Paul Hamilton said: “I would like to express gratitude to Essex Police because they have been brilliant. We are very grateful to all the people who contributed time and money to restoring the church back to how it was.
“To those that broke into our church and messed it up, we extend the hand of forgiveness and friendship, but please don’t do anything that silly again.”
You can view the images and submit information at: www.essex.police.uk/ume