A 45-year-old man who conned his way into a Clitheroe Church by saying he wanted to pray for his dead grandmother, but actually went in to steal from charity boxes, has been jailed for 22 months.
Peter Kevin Williams had been into St Michael and St John’s RC Church, Lowergate, a week earlier and used gaffer tape to remove cash from four donation boxes.
When he was arrested in Clitheroe another week on Williams was again in possession of a roll of tape.
Williams, of Cherry Lodge, Islington, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to steal from St Michael and St John’s RC Church, theft from charity collections at the church and going equipped for theft.
He was sent to Preston Crown Court for sentencing on Monday after Blackburn magistrates ruled their powers were not sufficient.
Miss Catherine Allan (prosecuting) said the first offence was the theft which took place when the church was open to the public. The thefts only came to light when the parishioner responsible went to empty the collection boxes and realised the contents were greatly down on usual.
“It is a sad sign of the times, but the church is fitted with CCTV and when this was viewed it showed Williams tampering with four boxes,” said Miss Allan.
A week later Williams approached the priest after mass and said his Nan had died and could he go into the church and pray.
“He was allowed in under that false premise, but was again equipped with gaffer tape,” said Miss Allan. “The priest viewed the CCTV and saw Williams tampering with the boxes. When he was challenged by the priest he ran off.
“Sadly, because of people like him, churches have to remain locked and people can’t go in to pray,” added Miss Allan.
Mr Gareth Price (defending) said Williams, in the past, had problems with heroin addiction and was a regular attender at court, but had since managed to deal with his drug problem.