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Parish church finances probed

PUBLISHED: 10:57 07 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

POLICE are investigating the finances of a Suffolk church after allegations of irregularities in the accounts.

Diocesan officials have confirmed they are helping police with inquiries into the financial affairs at the parish church of Monks Eleigh.

POLICE are investigating the finances of a Suffolk church after allegations of irregularities in the accounts.

Diocesan officials have confirmed they are helping police with inquiries into the financial affairs at the parish church of Monks Eleigh.

Inquiries are understood to relate to the financial affairs of St Peter's Church going back several years.

During that period, Peter Bentley was the treasurer.

Mr Bentley has confirmed he has been suspended from his position, and said: "I was informed by the parochial church council in September I had been suspended from my job and asked to hand over the books."

Nick Clarke, information officer for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: "The diocese has been pleased to assist Suffolk police in their investigations and stand ready to provide any more information they may require.

"We have no comment on the current ongoing police investigation, but will continue to support the work of the church in Monks Eleigh, together with the parish's new treasurer."

Suffolk police spokesman Anna Woolnough said: "We can confirm that we have received an allegation relating to financial irregularities at a church in south Suffolk. We are currently investigating the matter. To date no one has been arrested."

Monks Eleigh is in the Lavenham deanery, and is part of a living that also includes Brent Eleigh, Milden, Chelsworth and Kettlebaston.

Rector, the Rev David House, moved to the parish from Ipswich 18 months ago, and before becoming a minister was in accountancy.

Monks Eleigh takes it in turn with other parishes in the living to stage a 9.30 am service each Sunday. Every Sunday a family service for the whole benefice is held in the church at 11 am, with congregations having reached a healthy level since Mr House began introducing a more modern approach to services.

Last night, the Rev Rex Bird, who had been rector for eight years before the present incumbent, said: "I am shocked, saddened and surprised to hear of this investigation. We always paid our way at Monks Eleigh, and never failed to meet payment of the annual diocesan quota. I am surprised by the whole thing."

Situated near the top of Monks Eleigh's picturesque village green, the church is a landmark in the Brett Valley, with its tower dating back to the 15th Century. The interior includes a Queen Anne coat of arms above the chancel that, along with much of the building, was substantially restored in Victorian times.

Eight years ago a £100,000 restoration scheme was completed on the tower, with in the region of £40,000 raised locally.


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