THIEVES have stolen the roof from a crematorium.

Part of the copper roof was discovered to have been taken from Lewisham Crematorium on the morning of April 10, when workers returned after the Easter break.

The building, in Verdant Lane, Hither Green, was then closed until a temporary roof could be constructed.

But the rest of the roof was stolen later that night.

Lewisham Council, which owns the crematorium, believes thieves used a wheelbarrow to carry the copper across Hither Green Cemetery and through the fence adjoining the play park.

The crematorium, which has been in Verdant Lane since 1956, remained without a roof until April 12, when a temporary one was installed.

But due to the repair work, seven services had to be held at Hither Green Cemetery instead.Services finally resumed on April 13.

The crematorium will probably have to close again for a week while a permanent roof is added, but a date for this has not been confirmed. It has also not yet been estimated how much the work will cost.

Councillor Susan Wise, cabinet member for customer services, believes the theft shows a lack of respect for the families due to hold services at the crematorium.She said: "This was a completely despicable act.

"My sympathy goes out to all those families already suffering enough from the tragic loss of a loved one, without having to deal with the disruption caused by this mercenary act."

She added: "Crematorium officers are working hard to reduce the level of trauma experienced by the families involved.

"In the meantime, Lewisham Council is working alongside the police to catch the criminals responsible for this act." A Lewisham police spokesman said: "If any members of the public have information relating to this incident, we would urge them to call us in confidence."

If you can help, call police on 020 8284 7991 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.