Video thumbnail, 'Born again Christian' burgled church
Video Loading

A ‘born again Christian’ who went to seek help from a church ‘changed his mind’ and broke into the Vicar’s home when no-one answered the doorbell, a court heard.

Christopher Reilly visited St Wulstan’s RC Church in Great Harwood to ‘seek advice and solace’, but when he found the building was empty he used a spade to break into the church presbytery.

The 47-year-old then ‘ran around the premises like a lunatic’ before fleeing through a church door.

Reilly, of St James Close, Accrington, was identified after a CCTV appeal was issued by police following the incident on January 14 this year.

He pleaded guilty at Blackburn Magistrates Court to burglary with intent to steal.

The case has now been adjourned to Burnley Crown Court for sentence on April 3.

Andrew Robinson, prosecuting, told the court how Father Anthony Clarke, who lives in the presbytery linked to the church, had left to take his dog for a walk at 1.15pm.

When he returned an hour later he found a kitchen window had been smashed and that a wheelie bin had been pushed to the side of the wall to gain entry.

Christopher Reilly used a spade to smash into St Wulstan's RC Church in Great Harwood (right)

Mr Robinson said when Fr Clarke examined CCTV it showed Reilly knocking on the front door before picking up a spade next to the shed and prizing open the kitchen window.

Fr Clarke found the papers on his desk had been ‘disturbed’ but nothing was stolen. The cost to repair the window was £228, the court heard.

When interviewed by police, Reilly admitted the offence and said he ‘ran around like a lunatic’.

Simon Farnsworth, defending, said there was no ransacking of the vicar’s home, he had checked to make sure no-one was inside and deserved full credit for his guilty plea.

He told the court: “This gentleman does have an affinity with churches. He’s a born again Christian would you believe?

“He had gone to the church to seek some advice and solace and when he found nobody in his mind changed somewhat and he picked up the garden spade.

“He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got inside. He ran around like a lunatic and then believed he heard the doorbell ring so he ran out through a different church door.”

The court heard how Reilly was jailed in 2000 for 13 years for a robbery offence but has not committed any further offences since.