Vicar found guilty of stealing £24,000: goes on the run

Church of England vicar goes on the run: the fugitives who spent decades in hiding

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Simon Reynolds court case

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

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.

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