A CHURCHWARDEN who stole tens of thousands of pounds from generous Monks Kirby villagers has avoided jail because he is too ill.
John Collier, 68, now of Cobnut Cottage, Llanarth, West Wales, was considered an upstanding member of the community until he was caught pilfering cash donated by parishioners to churches and charities. The former village hall treasurer was sentenced last week after pleading guilty to theft over two years ago. He was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months and made subject to a nightly curfew for 60 days. Judge Peter Heywood, speaking at Swansea Crown Court, also prohibited him from acting in any capacity for a charity or voluntary body or as a committee member for any organisation.
One Monks Kirby villager, who had been affected by Collier’s actions but did not want to be named, expressed astonishment at the sentence, saying: “I can’t believe he won’t even be going to jail.
“It was a shocking amount of money, and he stole cheques and cash on several occasions, all the time cavorting as an upstanding member of the community. Because of his personal circumstances, a lot of villagers felt sorry for him and he was a recipient of much kindness.
“Little did we know what he was doing behind our backs. Good, kind, innocent people were taken in by his lies.”
Judge Hodson tried to sentence Collier several times in Warwick, Swansea and finally by video link, but ended up sentencing him in his absence. Collier is said to suffer from “very difficult medical problems” including sleep apnea and obesity.
Cllr Philip Morris-Jones, who represents the village on the county council, said: “It was a terrible thing that happened and I just hope it never happens again.”