A lead thief caught on the roof of a Wiltshire church told police “I needed the money”, Swindon Crown Court heard.

Jason Wynter, 49, who has been jailed for more than two years today, was one of two men caught red handed at St James’ Church, Devizes, on September 28 last year. The vicar and a parishioner - taking part in an all-night prayer vigil - called 999 after they heard noises coming from the roof.

Lay worship leader Kirsty Wilmott described seeing a pair of legs through one of the Grade II* listed church’s stained glass windows. She told the Gazette at the time: “I guessed what was happening.”

Prosecutor Rob Welling told Swindon Crown Court this afternoon that police called to the scene found Wynter and another with three to four metres of lead that had been “rolled up and ready to go”. He told cops he needed the money.

Nearby was a Proton Duo car. They vehicle’s keys were found on the other thief, who had taken the car from his partner without her permission.

The value of the lead was put at £30,000. Mr Welling said: “Thefts from church roofs are prevalent and they cause considerable loss to the country’s heritage.”

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Rev Keith Brindle with the rolls of lead Picture: GAZETTE AND HERALD

In addition to theft, Wynter had also admitted four separate incidents where he had assaulted or abused police officers.

The first, on June 9 last year, had started when police spotted him in Trowbridge town centre a little after 11pm holding a glass bottle by its neck. Officers tried to calm him down, but he threw his rucksack into the face of one constable then, after asking the police officers to admire his shoes, kicked the man four or five times in the leg. He called the constables a number of vile names, including using a racial slur.

On September 29, police were called to reports Wynter was acting aggressively at the Salisbury hostel where he had been staying. It was just hours after he was released from the police station having been arrested the day before for the lead thefts.

He told the officers “I kill policemen, that’s the truth” and resisted arrest, forcing officers to apply leg restraints. The man made threats against the officers’ mothers and grandmothers and spat at the men. Interviewed later on, he was apologetic and said he could not remember the exchange.

On March 7 this year, police accompanied paramedics taking Wynter to hospital after he was found in Melksham with a cut to his wrist. While in the Royal United Hospital, Bath, he had to be moved from near a children’s area as he was becoming aggressive. He kicked an officer and spat at him.

Two months later, on May 22, police were called to reports the man had damaged a Melksham corner shop owner’s car after he was refused beer. Armed officers went to a house nearby to find Wynter, who in the course of resisting arrest pinched one of the gun cops’ legs, tried to grab the officer’s Glock handgun and spat towards another policeman.

Wynter also had to be resentenced for assaults on police officers in October 2019, for which he had been given a community order by magistrates.

Defending, Nicholas Clough said his client had long struggled with alcohol misuse. He was remorseful and a spell in HMP Bristol on remand had seen him get clean and take on various courses. He had resolved to stay clear of the courts upon his release from prison.

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Jason Wynter's custody shot Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Speaking directly to the judge during the sentencing hearing after watching footage from the body worn camera of an officer involved in the May 22 incident, Wynter said he had been punched in the head by one of the policemen. “That’s why you can see the blood.”

Wynter, formerly of Bemerton Heath, Salisbury, pleaded guilty to theft, taking a vehicle without consent, assaulting emergency workers and disorderly behaviour.

Jailing Wynter for two years and one month, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “Your record is absolutely appalling: 40 convictions for 111 offences.

“Significantly, there are a large number of offences relating to violence. On any view it’s in double figures, at least 11 offences for assaulting police officers or similar and you are a serial offender in that regard. Even when you’ve been given chances, either community order or suspended sentences, you’ve not learnt your lesson.”

He added: “You must understand and I am sure you do, the message must be crystal clear: this court must protect emergency workers.”