A roofer who stole valuable antique tiles from church roofs will have to pay back just £1 of the £33,000 profit he made from crime after the police failed to look after his property.

Joe Crossley, of Avon Road, Melksham, who admitted three thefts and asked for seven offences to be taken into consideration, had initially been ordered to hand over £490 from the value of his works van and mobile phone, which were both seized when he was arrested.

But when the 24-year-old was released from prison he found the vehicle, which had been stored by police in a depot, was a write-off and the phone had been lost by officers.

At an earlier hearing a judge at Swindon Crown Court gave Crossley six months to come up with the £490 by selling the items, or face another 14 days inside.

But that has now been found to be impossible, as the property which formed the basis of the valuation was now worthless.

“The vehicle, a works van, was being held in a compound in Pewsey,” Colin Meeke, told the court.

“When Mr Crossley went to collect it it was full of water and a write-off. He had to pay to have it removed.

“The mobile telephone was six months out of date and couldn’t be located in the police property store.”

He asked for the order to be changed so that the thief, who was not present for the hearing, would only have to pay a nominal £1 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

However, should he come into money in the future Crossley would still be liable for the £33,066 which was assessed as his profit from crime.

The roofer had used his skills to strip tiles from six churches across west and north Wiltshire so he could sell the masonry at knock down rates.

The first offences, in May last year, took place in Lacock when part of the roof of St Anne’s on Bowden Hill was taken.

In the following weeks St John the Baptist in Little Somerford and Egypt Farm, Seend, had thousands of pounds worth of tile stolen.

The following month the GradeII-listed St Leonards, in Keevil, was targeted twice as was St Mary’s, in Broughton Gifford.

The roofer was caught in Hilperton in July when his van was spotted and the police were called.