Ottawa parishioners pray for return of church bell stolen from belfry

OTTAWA -- The reverend for a church in the rural Ottawa community of Bearbrook is calling for the return of a bell she suspects was stolen for scrap metal last week.

Rev. Margo Whittaker says it's not clear exactly when on May 21 the 100-kilogram bell was taken from Trinity Anglican Church, but she says how it was stolen became evident when a piece of it was found on the church grounds later that day.

She says a handyman for the church found the piece of the bell on the ground, then climbed the belfry to discover it was missing.

Whittaker says the handyman then spoke to the groundskeeper, who recalled filling up a hole beside the church that was the same shape as a bell.

She says she believes at least two people used a ladder to climb up to the belfry, detach the bell and drop it to the ground, before making a getaway.

Whittaker says members of the congregation are "very upset," adding that the church has been in the community for more than 120 years.

"There are a lot of people who have history here," she said. "We have a huge cemetery and there are hundreds of people who have relatives buried in the cemetery on the church ground, and we would like to ring the bell at the cemetery service, which is coming up on Father's Day."

She said the congregation is praying that whoever took the bell will have a change of heart, or that someone will give information that will lead to its return.

"There are stories of church bells being stolen and then church bells being found," Whittaker said. "It's not unprecedented ... and that gives me hope."

Ottawa police said they have received a report on the alleged theft and investigators are checking local scrap yards.