Priest jailed for theft

A RESPECTED Roman Catholic priest has been jailed after he set up a secret bank account and stole almost £100,000 which was left to his church in a will.

A RESPECTED Roman Catholic priest has been jailed after he set up a secret bank account and stole almost £100,000 which was left to his church in a will.

Eric Woodhead, who was the parish priest at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Lowestoft, stole the money by setting up a private account with 28-year-old Christopher Myhill, a volunteer parish administrator.

Woodhead, who was ordained in July 1979, and Myhill both admitted stealing £91,963 which had been left to the parish in a will.

Samantha Leigh, prosecuting, told Ipswich Crown Court that Myhill started working as a volunteer administrator at the church in July 2005.


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Irregularities in the parish accounts were soon noticed. In October 2007, the diocesan financial office undertook an investigation and found that about £92,000 was missing.

Miss Leigh said that parishioner Edna Borris had left money to the Lowestoft church in her will, but the cheque was paid into a private bank account which Myhill, of Queen's Road, Yarmouth, and Woodhead had set up.

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“This was done as a secret account and no one knew anything about it. They could draw on it as they saw fit,” she said.

The pair spent all but £500 of the money in a year. Cheques for £6,000 and £7,000 were frequently drawn out, signed by both Woodhead and Myhill and cashed, but the pair did not buy any expensive items - the only notable item bought was a £600 electric piano.

William Carter, defending, said that Woodhead, 60, of Upgate, Poringland, had had a problem with alcohol for many years, which had blurred his judgement.

Miss Katharine Moore, defending, said that Myhill was “somewhat naïve and impressionable” and wanted to impress Woodhead because he had ambitions of becoming a parish priest.

Judge Peter Thompson sentenced Woodhead to two-and-a-half years in prison and Myhill to two years.

Myhill also admitted stealing £8,000 from the parish bank account and for that offence was sentenced to serve nine months concurrently.

He said: “You both participated in an appalling breach of trust. The money has all gone and the victims are the members of the parish who would have benefitted from that money.

“You, Woodhead, instead of fulfilling your duties as a parish priest, betrayed your duties and your parishioners in the most flagrant way. You are now disgraced.”

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