One arrested after weekend vandalism spree in Masset

  • Feb. 13, 2006 7:00 a.m.

Hateful messages spray-painted on the church doorway were some of the troubling scenes residents of Masset woke up to Saturday morning after a spate of bizarre crimes over the weekend, Heather Ramsay writes after a day of investigation in Masset.
Four break-ins took place in the early morning of Saturday February 11 at a business, the high school and two churches, all in the centre of town. Although the sequence of each crime is unknown, police suspect they are related. More than $5,000 worth of goods were stolen in total.
At the Home Hardware store, perpetrators broke in through a back door, using a pry bar and stole items from two different display cases such as Ipods, digital cameras and cigarette lighters.
Reverend Canon Peter Hamel thinks cans of red, orange and black spray paint stolen from the store were later used to desecrate the entranceway to St. Paul’s Anglican church.
Slogans such as “Drop Kick Jesus”, “F— God” and “Hate Me” were sprayed in the covered entranceway of the church.
The door to the church was also forced open and once inside the perpetrators then proceeded through the sanctuary to the back room. There they broke into cabinets, stole three dollars and opened a bottle of wine used for communion.
Rev. Canon Hamel says the bottle had barely a sip taken from it, but four or five fire extinguishers were emptied into the building and a fine dust, “like a volcanic eruption” was sprayed in the church and the basement Thrift Store. The perpetrators entered this part of the building by breaking a plexiglass window. The Green Church Hall next door was also broken into.
Nothing of much consequence seemed to be stolen from either building. Rev. Canon Hamel was dismayed about the damage to the Thrift Store.
“Why break-in when the goods are almost free?” he said.
Most upsetting to Rev. Hamel was finding some prayer books in the historic church partially burnt on the edges. Luckily, the flames hadn’t taken hold. “That was a blessing or the building would be gone,” he said.
At G.M. Dawson Secondary School, surveillance cameras on the exterior captured images of at least two criminals breaking into the shop classroom.
A window was broken on the garage-door style entrance and once inside, cabinets holding student projects were broken open.
Vice-principal Cheryl MacKenzie says nothing appears to have been taken and the film is in the hands of police investigators.
Rev. Canon Hamel says the damage at the church has upset many residents in town and it causes him to wonder where the anger is coming from.
“They were on a rampage and they had a mission,” he says.
He thought of the caricatures of Mohammed that have been in the news and compared them to the nasty messages spray-painted on his church’s walls.
“I respond differently. I know there is that anger out there and you have to wear it,” he said.
He says after spending many hours on Saturday cleaning up the church with many helpful volunteers, he made some changes to Sunday’s sermon.
“We prayed for the people,” he said, noting it is only a tiny percentage of the community who does this sort of thing. He hopes this kind of event will bring together all elements of the community for an open discussion.
“It’s real. And the people need help,” he said.
One suspect has been arrested and released with charges pending, but Masset RCMP have other suspects in mind. Forensic evidence including fingerprints and foot impressions have been collected.