Church hall damaged in stolen taxi crash to stay closed for another five months

The  accident scene at All Saints Church Hall, Cleadon Village.
The accident scene at All Saints Church Hall, Cleadon Village.

A church hall hit and partly demolished in a stolen taxi smash will be closed and out of action until at least September, officials have confirmed.

They say part of the interior of the Old Schoolroom at All Saints Church, Cleadon, is being supported by metal scaffolding – and is too unsafe to enter.

Its means busy community classes have had to find new homes within the church and its chapterhouse, causing inconvenience but not deterring participants.

Detectives hunting a man who leaped into the driver’s seat and sped off when the taxi driver got out to make a mobile phone call, say they have yet to make an arrest.

The accident, at 2am on Sunday, March 31, came just hours after around 80 people had attended a ceilidh marking the church’s 150th anniversary.

Keith Higgin, 81, chair of the church’s finance and property group, said: “We cannot have anybody meeting in the Old Schoolroom until September at the earliest.

“The insurance company will have its routine to go through and we can not start to get the room put back to normal until that is done.

“Inside the schoolroom, it’s a bit like a building site, with the roof propped up.

“This has caused inconvenience to us, but at least we have been able to accommodate elsewhere most of the groups who used the schoolroom.

“The accident has also caused a bit of bother for the taxi driver, who may have lost some of his livelihood.

“Pedestrians are also being inconvenienced by the fact the pavement that runs past the schoolroom is also closed.”

The accident was the second involving a vehicle hitting the hall in less than a year.

Last July, a stolen Ford Transit left the road at the same right handed bend on Sunderland Road, causing damage which was still being repaired.

In the latest incident, police believe the taxi driver pulled over and got out to report the antics of his male passenger, who then jumped into the driving seat and sped off.

The suspect is described as being shaven-headed, white, 5ft 10in tall, of stocky build, and wearing a black jacket and dark trousers.

Anyone with information is asked to ring 101, quoting reference 64 310319 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111