News Daily Spot: Vicar on the run hands himself in and is jailed for two years

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Vicar on the run hands himself in and is jailed for two years

A VICAR who went on the run to Germany minutes before a jury convicted him of stealing thousands of pounds in church fees was today jailed for two years and eight months.

Rev Simon Reynolds, 50, stole around £24,000 handed over by unsuspecting parishioners for weddings, funeral and churchyard memorials.

As the jury considered their verdict following a week-long trial at Sheffield Crown Court on Thursday last week, the vicar suddenly fled the building. 

He had been granted permission to leave the dock to get some lunch but was forbidden from leaving the court precinct as the jury considered four counts of theft against him. 

But that failed to deter Reynolds who fled the court and travelled to an airport where he caught a plane to Dusseldorf. 

Reynolds met up with a friend who drove him back home across Europe allowing the errant vicar to hand himself in to police on Monday. 

His actions sparked an international manhunt, with South Yorkshire detectives involving Interpol and senior clergy appealing for the vicar to come back. 

Today having been returned to court, shame-faced Reynolds stood in the dock as his sudden flit was explained. 

Alasdair Campbell, defending, told Judge Julian Goose how his client first went to his Sheffield hotel before travelling to Manchester Airport. 

The barrister said Reynolds then intended to travel Dublin but, in a state of stress, booked a flight to Dusseldorf instead, where he stayed with a friend. 

Mr Campbell said this friend drove him back to his home in Farnham, Surrey, and the defendant then made his way to meet police in Sheffield. 

He told the court: “He told me that he was not, in fact, fleeing from the process but he was fleeing from what, personally, he was feeling.” 

The trial heard how Reynolds pocketed cash given to him as fees for weddings and funerals as well as others relating to memorials in the grounds of All Saints Church in Darton, Barnsley. 

He should have paid this money to the diocese or the parochial church council. 

Prosecutors said the appalling state of Reynolds’ book-keeping meant it was difficult to say how much he took but estimated it was more than £24,000. 

But Mr Campbell argued the figure was much lower and Judge Goose decided that he would sentence on the basis Reynolds stole at least £16,500. 

Judge Goose said he had identified 32 individual marriages for which Reynolds appears to have pilfered the fees. 

He said: “You were quite obviously in a position of a high degree of trust, not just by the church and the Diocesan Board of Finance but also by the parishioners, the wardens and the treasurer who worked closely with you.” 

The judge added: “Your community, who allowed you into their home and their lives, have had their trust broken by what you did.” 

The court heard that, prior to being priest-in-charge at Darton, Reynolds’ was a curate in Exeter and, before that, a minor canon at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. 

He left Darton in 2013 to be a priest-in-charge in Farnham, a role from which he is currently suspended by the Church of England.

By Paul Jeeves

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