Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 15:12 UK

Former priest jailed over theft

Eric Woodhead
Woodhead was the minister at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Lowestoft

A former Roman Catholic priest has been jailed for two and a half years for stealing 90,000 of church funds.

Father Eric Woodhead, who was the minister at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Lowestoft, Suffolk, had admitted the offence earlier this year.

Ipswich Crown Court had heard the money had been left to the church in a will.

Woodhead, 60, had resigned as parish priest in June 2007. Rt Rev Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia, said he received the news with "great sadness".

He added: "The office of Parish Priest is founded upon trust, and it is clear that this trust has been seriously abused.

"The last year has been a difficult time for parishioners at Lowestoft, and I apologise profoundly to them for the betrayal of trust involved."

The court heard that in 2006 Woodhead and another defendant Christopher Myhill, of Queens Road, Great Yarmouth, opened a secret bank account and deposited the money left in a will to Our Lady Star of the Sea church in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

In just seven months, they spent the entire amount, with no visible proceeds apart from a 600 electric organ.

Myhill was jailed for two years for his part in the theft.

Judge Peter Thompson at Ipswich Crown Court told Woodhead, of Poringland, Norfolk, that instead of fulfilling his duties as a parish priest, he betrayed his parishioners in the most flagrant way.

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