A ROMAN Catholic priest has been arrested on suspicion of defrauding a large amount of cash from the church, it has been revealed.

Police seized thousands of pounds in euros and sterling currency when they searched the home of parish priest Father John Reid, a court was told today.

Fr Reid’s arrest followed an audit by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle which discovered that a substantial amount of cash had gone missing while he was serving as parish priest at St Cuthbert’s Church, in Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

He has voluntarily withdrawn from public ministry.

Details of the allegations emerged at a hearing at Peterlee Magistrates Court when Durham Police applied for an order to keep the seized cash.

Officers argued they had reasonable grounds for suspecting it was obtained through unlawful conduct.

Fr Reid, 66, whose address was given as St Patrick’s Presbytery, Fairfield Road, Stockton, did not attend the hearing.

PC Christine Cuthbertson told the court, officers had searched Fr Reid’s home and arrested him on suspicion of fraud on Wednesday (May 21), following an audit conducted by the diocese.

PC Cuthbertson said: “The audit indicates there is a large amount of cash which has gone missing or is unaccounted for over a five-year period.

“Fr Reid has been interviewed and there have been various explanations (given). He has been released on bail until August 12.”

PC Cuthbertson added, during the search of his house officers recovered 2,190 euros (about £1,770) and £675 in pounds sterling.

She said: “This is suspected to be the proceeds of criminal conduct and could be intended for use in criminal conduct.

“We are applying for a retention order to establish the origin of this cash and for further inquiries to be carried out.”

Magistrates granted an order allowing police to keep the cash for a period of six months.

A statement released behalf of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle said: “Fr John Reid, parish priest of St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church, Chester-le-Street and St Bede’s Sacriston, has been arrested and is to answer charges concerning financial irregularities.

“The Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, is aware of the situation and has made arrangements for the pastoral care of Fr Reid who has voluntarily withdrawn from public ministry.

“The parishes of Chester-le-Street and Sacriston are being cared for by another priest during Fr Reid’s absence.

“The diocese is co-operating fully with the police over this matter until it is resolved.”