Religious Affairs Correspondent
The Dean of Lincoln, the Very Rev Brandon Jackson, jogged through the streets of his city with a wine bottle on a mission to seduce one of his former vergers, a court heard yesterday.
Dean Jackson, 60, is on trial in a Consistory Court under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure of 1963, charged with two offences of "conduct unbecoming the office and work of a clerk in holy orders". It is only the second such trial since 1963 and is expected to cost at least pounds 200,000.
The dean pleads not guilty to both charges. If found guilty, he can be reprimanded, sacked, or stripped of his priestly status.
In the words of the promoter, or prosecutor, David Stokes QC, the dean is supposed to have had "a brief and it would appear, somewhat unsatisfactory sexual relationship" with Verity Freestone, who had worked for three months as a verger at the cathedral.
The dean, said Mr Stokes, had called at Miss Freestone's house, where she lived with her mother, on the evening of 19 October 1993, at a time when she had told him she would be alone. "He was in training for the London marathon. He had told his secretary that he was going for a run. When the accused arrived at Miss Freestone's house he had with him a bottle of wine.
"They sat and talked and had some of the wine. They talked about his family and particularly his daughter. There was kissing, fondling, flirtatious chat. Then she suggested they go upstairs. At no time did he demur from this suggestion." Later, in the autumn, Mr Stokes claimed, the dean had met Miss Freestone after evensong and examined his diary to find out when his wife would be away.
On 30 November Miss Freestone called at the deanery, he said, on Dean Jackson's invitation, and there they once more went to bed. After that, the relationship ended and in February the following year she reported it to another of the canons at the cathedral.
Miss Freestone, 32, a community carer, answered most questions matter- of-factly during four hours giving evidence. In her testimony, she painted a picture of a man who was physically forward but emotionally backward. The dean, she claimed, had kissed her "full on" when she came for counselling, and told her she had "bedroom eyes".
They went to bed but the episode ended unsatisfactorily. "He was obviously disappointed by it. I was slightly disappointed as well, but it didn't bother me a great deal at the time," she said. But after they had first been to bed, she went to a Bible class in the deanery and saw him alone in his study afterwards. "I asked him whether he loved me or not. He said it was too early to tell about that sort of thing, but obviously he cared for me.
"He said that he couldn't really cope with the risk that was involved, both to his job and to his marriage. He was aware that I had spoken to my sister about what had happened and he said that if I decided to tell anyone else it would destroy me before it would destroy him."
Anne Rafferty, QC for Dean Jackson, cross-examining Miss Freestone, claimed that she was "obsessed" with the dean, receiving treatment for depression, and had "concocted a fantasy out of some portions of fact" which had become "the most dramatic thing in her 32 years of life".
Dean Jackson will give his evidence today.
'Confused woman', page 3