Simon Reynolds, a 50-year-old Church of England vicar from Farnham in Surrey, was in court yesterday, to face charges of stealing thousands of pounds that people had paid him as fees for weddings, funerals and gravestones. However, after going out when the court broke for lunch, he never returned, and has gone on the run.
Reynolds was given the money by people who wanted to get married or have their funeral at All Saints Church in Darton near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. He was caught after he left the parish in 2013 to take up a post in Surrey. A church warden noticed that a cheque for fees to a stonemason was made out personally to Reynolds. He considered it a bit odd, so delved deeper.
An investigation revealed that instead of passing fees to the diocese and the parochial church council, Reynolds kept most of them for himself. He had denied all the charges, claiming he was very disorganised, so he didn't know where the money had gone.
An official at Sheffield Crown Court revealed that the jury had returned after lunch yesterday and convicted him of four counts of theft - amounting to £24,000 - taken between 2007 and 2013. However, Reynolds never returned to hear his fate. A warrant has been issued for his arrest
%VIRTUAL-ArticleSidebar-crime-stories% On the run
It has to be hoped that Reynolds is found safe and well - and soon.
There are some instances, when people have escaped justice for surprisingly long periods of time.
In 2013 a man was arrested in Arkansas after 36 years on the run. He had escaped prison where he was serving time for armed robbery - after apparently climbing the fence. By the time he was caught, he was 70-years old.
Last year a Michigan woman was caught after 37 years on the run, after escaping from prison where she was serving a sentence for larceny. She was with her 32-year-old son at the time of her arrest - who knew nothing of his mother's fugitive past.
In 2009 a hijacker, who had diverted a plane from Puerto Rico to Cuba in 1968, handed himself into the FBI after 41 years on the run. He had been living in Cuba for more than four decades and told the authorities that he wanted to come home because he missed his family. At the time of the hijack, diversions to Cuba were not that unusual: this was the second hijack of the day.
Even more remarkable than that was the arrest in May this year of an Ohio man who had been on the run for 56 years. He admitted killing a pedestrian with his car in 1957, and after a parole violation he was jailed in 1959. In the same year, he escaped from prison, and justice took more than half a century to catch up with him.
Vicar found guilty of stealing £24,000: goes on the run
In May, Paul Robert Benson, a 24-year-old from Lurgan, stole groceries from his local supermarket. He might have got away without being identified, if he hadn’t decided to wear a Manchester United top with 'Benson 22' written on the back.
The judge sentencing him to 12 months probation said that he might as well have had a neon sign on his back.
In January, Scott Tinsley, a 38-year-old from Cobridge in Staffordshire, was jailed for 40 months after admitting burglary.
He broke into a property in the middle of the night, took electrical items, and put them in a garden a few doors down. However, he then started feeling a bit peckish, so he popped back to the property to make himself a snack. Then he promptly fell asleep - and was discovered by the homeowners in the morning.
In September 2014, a drunk burglar in the Chinese city of Suqian, talked himself into a corner.
He broke into a fifth floor flat on the mistaken assumption that it was empty, and was quickly caught by the owner’s ten-year-old daughter. When she asked what he was doing there, he decided his best defence was to say that he was Superman, and was about to fly back to his secret headquarters.
She told him to prove it, so the burglar stripped to his underwear and jumped out of the window. He told police from his hospital bed that it had seemed to make sense when he was drunk.
In July 2014, Stewart James Wright, a 37-year-old from Middlesbrough, thought he’d stumbled across the perfect crime.
He saw the door open at a student house, so wandered in and simply picked up their 42-inch-TV. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't really thought through his getaway plan.
He’d travelled to the area by bike, and was stopped by police cycling along a nearby road, trying to balance the TV on the handlebars. He was on bail at the time for stealing a bike.
In June 2014, Jamie Neil, a 41-year-old from Bethel in Cornwall, was jailed for robbing a petrol station in St Austell.
His plan to disguise himself by putting a plastic bag over his head would have worked better if he hadn't chosen a completely transparent one.
In June 2014, Nigel Ball, a 52-year-old from Wakefield, was found guilty of stealing a fish tank from a pet shop. He was caught after going back to the store to buy fish to put in it, and when staff asked him what sort of tank he had, he pointed to the type he had just stolen.
He had to complete a form with his contact details in order to take the fish, so police tracked him down to his home where they found the stolen tank.
In October 2013, a man from Perth tried to rob a corner shop, and was foiled by his trousers.
He took the till, and tried to run away with it, but his trousers were so loose they kept falling down. In the end he was forced to drop the till so he could hang onto his trousers. In the confusion he also dropped his knife and a pair of gloves, and a police dog used them to track him down. He was jailed for three and a half years.
In February 2013, a man in the Washington suburb of Laurel concocted a flawed plan to rob a bank.
His big mistake was failing to bring a bag, so he dropped the cash on the floor. He stopped to pick it up and put it in an open umbrella. Unfortunately for him, while he was held up collecting the money, the police deflated the tires on his car.
He tried to escape on foot, but slipped on a patch of ice and banged his head: at which point he gave up.
In January 2008, a man from Louisiana decided to rob a seafood restaurant. He forgot to take a disguise, so he picked up a bucket that was lying nearby and put it on his head.
The slight drawback to his disguise was that he wasn’t able to see, so he kept blundering into thing. He also had to keep lifting the bucket up to see where he was going. The security camera was therefore able to glimpse his face, and the man was identified, arrested and charged.
In September 2011, a woman from Manchester tried to steal several hundreds of pounds worth of booze from Asda in Oldham.
She loaded up the trolley, and walked out of the shop without paying. She managed to get to her car and load it up before staff caught up with her.
Sadly for her, when she jumped in the car to make her getaway, she realised she had run out of petrol. She was caught trying to push the car into the petrol station.