A former priest’s life was in tatters last night after he admitted siphoning £20,000 from an elderly parishioner’s £64,000 bequest to his Highland church.
John Betteley, 61, a one-time minister of St John’s Episcopal Church at Ballachulish, has lost his job and his marriage has broken down since he took the money six years ago.
At Fort William Sheriff Court yesterday Betteley’s actions were branded “utterly shameful” and he was ordered to do 300 hours of community service.
Sheriff Desmond Leslie said Betteley was pastor in a church which preached forgiveness, and added: “I only hope that sentiment reaches out to you from your former parishioners.”
Outside the court, members of the congregation were unforgiving however.
One man, who declined to be named, said: “A big brush has been used for what is a whitewash by the church and the people who provided references for him.”
Another said the outcome “will be discussed shortly by the congregation” – which is holding a fundraising event on Sunday to generate cash for much-needed repairs.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church said later: “Mr Betteley no longer exercises ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Church, having resigned in 2004, but since his resignation he and his wife have received pastoral support from the church.”
• Full story at the Aberdeen Press & Journal.