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Vicar is charged with defrauding an elderly woman parishioner

11 October 2019

ISTOCK

A VICAR has admitted duping an elderly woman parishioner out of thousands of pounds of her savings.

In just under month, the Vicar of Bestwood, Nottinghamshire, the Revd Andy Morris, took a total of £5000 from the bank account of 96-year-old Mavis Pennack, who had trusted him so much that she had included him in her will.

The deception was spotted by Mrs Pennack’s stepdaughter, Sheila Smith, a retired audit clerk, when she checked bank statements and found numerous unexplained withdrawals.

Last month, at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court, Mr Morris pleaded guilty to fraud between 11 December 2016 and 6 January 2017. He was charged that “while occupying a position, namely as Reverend of the parish of Bestwood, Church of England, in which you were expected to safeguard, or not act against, the financial interests of Joan Mavis Pennack, you dishonestly abused that position intending to make a gain: namely, £5000, for yourself.” Mrs Pennack died a month after the fraud ended.

No details of the offence were given in court, but District Judge Leo Pyle told Mr Morris that the case was so serious he would be sent to the diocesan crown court for sentence by a judge. Mr Morris, who has been suspended from his duties in the benefice of Bestwood, was released on unconditional bail to appear at Nottingham Crown Court on 22 October.

Outside court, Mrs Smith described the Vicar’s actions as “abominable”. She said: “He is very plausible. He conducted her funeral, and is even mentioned in the Will. We could just not believe it.” Her suspicions were aroused when she and her sister went through Mrs Pennack’s papers after her death. “We wondered why she seemed to keep taking out money. We thought it was her care-home fees, but they were paid by direct debit.”

A spokesman for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “We took action as soon as this was brought to our attention, and have worked closely with police and the statutory authorities to support their investigation. The safeguarding and protection of vulnerable people is our highest priority.

“We are deeply sorry for what has happened, and offer an unreserved apology to everyone who has been affected by this crime.”

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