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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Church backs brawl row vicar
wedding ceremony
The wedding took place at St Cuthbert's Church in Billingham
The Church of England is standing by a vicar alleged to have been involved in a brawl at a wedding where he was presiding.

Guests claim Reverend Canon Richard Smith "lost control" when a wedding party turned up late at St Cuthbert's Church in Billingham.

Guests at the wedding of Andrea Pearson and Richard Dawkins, say they looked on in astonishment as the vicar and a photographer allegedly grappled on the ground.

They said Mr Smith became angry at demands for photographs prior to the wedding ceremony on 12 July.

Bridesmaid Anne Corfield, 34, said: "Luckily most of the party were in the church at the time.

"We were already running about 20 minutes late when the limo with Andrea in turned up at the church.

He is a lovely man with a very sympathetic and sensitive nature
Church of England spokesman

"The photographer got some pictures by the car and then wanted some more at the door of the church.

"But the vicar got angry and seemed to lunge at the photographer.

"We all screamed and the two of them ended up on the ground.

"Andrea and Richard are now on their honeymoon so we are not sure what they intend to do about it when they get back."

Mr Smith was not available for comment.

But a spokesman for the Durham diocese of the Church of England, said: "This is totally out of character for Richard.

"He is a lovely man with a very sympathetic and sensitive nature.

"We will obviously have to wait and see if anything more comes of this legally."

A spokesman for Cleveland Police said no official complaint had yet been made.

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