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Kidderminster clergyman tells court he did not have gambling habit
4:19pm Monday 11th February 2013 in Local
A 65-year-old Kidderminster clergyman accused of stealing £61,000 from a vulnerable friend has told a court he did not have a gambling habit.
Rev Peter Hesketh said he had never spent any money on gambling and the money he had used from Mr Peter Court's accounts was to cover an agreement that he should be paid £20,000 a year for a business deal.
Hesketh, of The Presbytery, Shrewsbury Road, Kidderminster, denies a charge of theft. The prosecution at Worcester Crown Court alleges he stole £61, 429 from Mr Court between January 17, 2006, when he was granted power of attorney over Mr Court's financial affairs, and May 26, 2007, when Mr Court died after spending his final few months in a care home with dementia.
The prosecution claims that Hesketh took money from Mr Court's accounts that could not have been used for his benefit, particularly once he was in the nursing home. The two had become friends after meeting at the pub Mr Court ran, the Woodman in Bewdley.
Cross-examined by Paul Mytton, prosecuting, Hesketh denied a suggestion that he had "squandered" any of Mr Court's money on gambling. Police had found documents relating to several betting companies when they searched his home after his arrest in 2008.
He said he had bought a software programme which offered the opportunity to come up with predictions for the results of football and horse racing. He had intended to use it to generate income but it did not offer the money he had hoped and he had never spent a penny on betting. The documents relating to the betting companies were part of this programme, he told a jury at Worcester Crown Court.
He said the police had also suggested to him in interview that he had a drinking habit and he denied this.
Peter Arnold, defending, read character references from people who had known Hesketh for a number of years and testified to his honesty and integrity.
They included Worcestershire county councillor and Wyre Forest district councillor Fran Oborski, who said she had met Hesketh when they were both on the board of governors at St Ambrose Primary School in Kidderminster.
Very Rev Canon Gerald Breen, Dean of St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham, said he had known Hesketh since they met at St Wulstan's in Stourport, shortly after Hesketh became a deacon and a third reference came from Rev John Moran of St Mary's Church in Harvington. All said they could not believe Hesketh was facing allegations of dishonesty.
The trial continues.