Priest caught thief stealing from Clitheroe church


A 45-year-old man who conned his way into a Clitheroe church by saying he wanted to pray for his dead grandmother actually went in to steal from charity boxes.

Blackburn magistrates heard that Peter Kevin Williams had been into the same church a week earlier and used gaffer tape to remove cash from four donation boxes.

And when he was arrested in Clitheroe another week on, Williams was again in possession of a roll of the 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 in custody to Preston Crown Court to be sentenced after the magistrates ruled their own sentencing 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 theft 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 closed circuit TV 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. The priest viewed the CCTV and saw Williams tampering with the boxes. When he was challenged by the priest he ran off,” said Miss Allan.

“Sadly, because of people like him, churches have to remain locked and people can’t go in to pray.”

“Because of the nature of the thefts it would be hard to quantify exactly how much was stolen.”

In mitigation for Williams, Mr Gareth Price said that in the past the defendant had problems with heroin addiction, but had managed to deal with his drug problem.

“In the past he was a regular attender at court, but since 2005 the frequency of his appearances has reduced dramatically,” said Mr Price.

“His ex-wife, the mother of his four children, passed away four weeks ago and it may be that which has knocked him off the straight and narrow.”