A community hall has been left waterlogged after thieves stripped lead from its roof.

They are thought to have struck at Wimbledon Community Centre between midnight on Saturday and 11am on Sunday morning - as inches of snow fell in Wimbledon.

On Monday, Fran O'Toole, general secretary of the Wimbledon Community Association which runs the hall, said: "There's water pouring in now. It's made the hall unusable until we get it covered... It's just what we didn't need."

He expected the St George's Road centre to be out of action for at least a week - and has been forced to cancel bookings for groups ranging from bridge clubs to the Wimbledon Choral Society, which has 160 members.

Other users of the hall include kung fu clubs, Scottish dancing groups, amateur theatre companies, flower arranging clubs and a Pakistani women's group.

Lead from an area of the roof measuring about 3m by 3m was taken during the theft, which was spotted the following day.

Mr O'Toole said it was not clear how much fixing the damage would cost, but closing the hall for a week could cost about £2,000 in lost bookings.

He called the theft a "nightmare" and said: "It's so sad - it's happening everywhere."

Mr O'Toole said the centre had hosted the first meeting of the founders of AFC Wimbledon, the community football club formed a decade ago in the wake of Wimbledon FC's relocation to Milton Keynes that has since risen to the top divisions of the English game.

He said: "It just shows the importance of having something like this for the community."

The association does not receive any statutory funding.

Mr O'Toole said it would welcome donations of cash or volunteering, and that anyone who can help should contact fran@wimbledoncommunity.org.uk Anyone with information about the theft should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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