Vicar on the run after church thefts conviction

A nationwide search in the UK is under way for a vicar who went on the run as he waited to be convicted of pocketing thousands of pounds of cash belonging to a church.

Vicar on the run after church thefts conviction

South Yorkshire Police said they were working with forces across the country to find Church of England vicar Simon Reynolds, who failed to return to Sheffield Crown Court after lunch on Thursday to hear a jury find him guilty of four counts of theft.

Reynolds, 50, was convicted of keeping around £24,000 (€34,000) of fees given to him for weddings, funerals and graveyard memorials when he was priest-in-charge of All Saints Church in Darton, near Barnsley.

Reynolds, of Farnham, Surrey, went on trial last week accused of keeping fees handed over to him by bereaved families and engaged couples. He should have handed over the money to the diocese and the parochial church council, the court heard.

Prosecutor Tom Storey told the court investigations by the church and police showed Reynolds had only passed on a fraction of what he should have between March 2007 and March 2013.

Suspicions about Reynolds began after he left Darton, in March 2013, to take up a new post in Surrey.

A church warden thought it was “irregular” a fees cheque from a stonemason relating to a churchyard monument was made out personally to the former vicar. It was discovered Reynolds had not paid any fees for weddings or funerals to the Wakefield Diocesan Board of Finance for a number of years, despite conducting a number of services during this time.

Monuments for 23 burials and 50 cremation plaques or inscriptions were found in the church grounds and graveyard but no records of the burials or cremations had been made.

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