Priest admits swindling parishes

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The Independent Online
GRIEVING PARENTS burying their stillborn babies were among the trusting parishioners a clergyman conned out of money to pay for his own luxurious comforts.

The Rev Roy Hibbert admitted charging "vicar's extras" at the funerals and weddings of his parishioners. The Anglican rural dean amassed thousands of pounds to fund his lifestyle, including holidays abroad. One of his ploys was to charge for the funerals of stillborn children, a service the Church of England gives free.

He was arrested after complaints from members of the congregations of his three Shropshire churches.

Nigel Rumfitt QC, for the prosecutoin, told Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday that 68-year-old Mr Hibbert bought himself a retirement home with the proceeds of his dishonesty, which he said amounted to pounds 50,000, though the defence said the figure was only pounds 20,000.

Mr Rumfitt said: "He was a senior and well-respected clergyman up until his retirement at the end of 1996. He was also in a position of considerable trust within the church."

Mr Hibbert, a father of two, who is accused of defrauding the church and his parishioners since 1986, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of false accounting. His defence said he was a "broken man".

The case was adjourned for sentencing today.