Two widows who handed over cash to vicar Simon Reynolds in relation to headstones after their husbands died have said he deserved a longer sentence.
Reynolds, 50, was jailed for two years and eight months at Sheffield Crown Court today for stealing at least £16,500 of church funds while he was priest-in-charge at All Saints Church in Darton, Barnsley.
He pocketed cash that had been handed over by parishioners to pay for weddings, funerals and churchyard memorials.
Iris Fleetwood, whose husband Jeff died in 2010, said: “To me personally, he nearly destroyed me, that man.
“I did warn the church at the time, I told him personally and his boss that he was no man of God and he was a disgrace to Darton church.”
Mrs Fleetwood said: “He took me to the very edge, Simon, and from that day I’ve waited for this day and, at last, it’s come. I knew one day he would be found out for exactly what he is. He was never, ever a man of God.”
Gail Zoldan, whose husband Martin died in 2011, said: “I’m glad that justice has been done but I do think he should have got longer than what he has - him being in the position that he was, being a priest.
“If it had been somebody else, I wouldn’t have been as bothered. But I think being a priest, and having all your trust in him, the sentence just isn’t long enough.”
Mrs Zoldan said: “When you’ve lost somebody so close to you, that’s been a big part of your life since you were fourteen years of age, and then you try to make a nice grave for him and he doesn’t even keep the cemetery properly done - you’ve to fight weeds and everything to get to a grave. And then for him to steal money that was there for that reason, it just causes you a lot of grief, so much upset.”
Both women, who live in Darton, watched from the public gallery at Sheffield Crown Court as Reynolds was jailed today.
Police today welcomed Reynolds’ sentence, which included an extra two months in jail for breaching his bail after he left the country last week as his trial came to an end.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker said: “I am pleased that Simon Reynolds has been given a 32-month prison sentence.
“He was in a position of trust when he stole from members of the community and abused their good faith which has been reflected in the sentence.
“The judge has also recognised his decision to abscond from court with additional time added to his sentence.
“It took intensive police resources to secure the arrest of Simon Reynolds and I would like to thank all the officers who worked tirelessly, not only on the initial police investigation, but the subsequent search to apprehend him after he absconded from court.
“I hope today’s sentence is a warning to anyone looking to deceive or exploit people, that their behaviour will not be tolerated and that South Yorkshire Police will do all we can to bring people to justice.
“Simon Reynolds’ calculated and despicable lies have resulted in him spending a lengthy time behind bars, giving him time to reflect on his actions.”