Detectives in St Helens are appealing for information following a robbery at a church this evening.
At about 6.25pm three men, one believed to be holding a handgun, rang the doorbell of the priest’s residence and demanded cash. They then ordered him to take them to Vincent de Paul Church, on Derbyshire Hill Road before ordering him to empty a safe.
It is believed they took a quantity of cash from a safe before making off on foot.
The priest was not assaulted or injured during the incident, but was left extremely shaken.
Officers carried out an extensive search of the area but were unable to trace the three men. Officers will examine CCTV from the area in a bid to identify the offenders and are carrying out house to house enquiries.
The offenders are described as being white, with two of the men taller than the third. All three had their faces covered and were described as being aged between 17-21.
Detective Sergeant Chris Burrows, from St Helens CID, said: “I am sure the people of St Helens will be shocked and saddened to discover the church has been targeted in this way.
“It is a focal point for many in our community, particularly at this time of year, and it is heart-breaking to think the offenders have taken money which we understand was a charitable collection intended for a children’s orphanage.
“While he was thankfully not injured this would have been a very frightening incident for the priest.
“I would like to reassure people who live locally that we are doing everything we can to trace the offenders. Religious leaders provide an invaluable service in our local communities and I would urge anyone who lives locally and has any information which could help us with our enquiries to call us.”
Anyone with information can contact detectives at St Helens CID on 0151 777 6811, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.