£100,000 Church Theft Probe

By Luke Traynor
icLiverpool [United Kingdom]
February 14, 2007

THE former treasurer of a Liverpool church is being investigated over accusations that she stole up to £100,000.

Janet Crossett, 36, was arrested on suspicion of theft after officials realised the finances of St Michael's, the parish church of Garston, were in disarray.

She is on bail until April 11 while the investigation continues.

Philip Canter, Mrs Crossett's solicitor, said today: "This allegation is completely untrue."

But Church of England off-icials have dismissed Mrs Crossett from her post, which she took over after the death of the previous treasurer.

The church today promised to review all future financial arrangements.

The alleged offence is believed to have taken place between 2003 and 2006. She was arrested on January 12.

Today the archdeacon of Liverpool admitted it was feared the money would never be recovered.

The missing cash came from a 90,000 legacy given to the church, and further savings of up to 25,000 earmarked to modernise the rundown path leading up to the grand-looking church in Church Road.

After Mrs Crossett was arrested, the congregation was informed of the investigation.

The church has called in the Charity Commission and is working closely with the police investigation.

It is understood police will study to check the church's financial documents dating back to 2003 to see if they had been altered in any way.

In this month's church magazine, Mrs Crossett's name, published in the previous month's publication, was missing.

When the ECHO confronted Mrs Crossett at her Garston home she said: "I don't wish to comment at this stage until I have spoken to my solicitor."

It is understood she has three children and is well-known in the community where she is a member of the Orange Lodge and a former leader for the girls' Ranger group, connected to the church.

One parishioner said: "I'm totally shocked, I can't believe all this money has disappeared. We were told by the dean not to say a word about this, but gossip is now spreading around the community.

"Nobody knows the exact amount gone, but there's suggestions that it might be more than 100,000."

A police spokeswoman said: "A 36-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of theft. She has been bailed until April 11 pending further inquiries."

The archdeacon of Liverpool, the venerable Ricky Panter, said: 'The diocese of Liverpool aims for the highest standards of financial probity in all our parishes and this is an isolated case.

"However, we view this alleg-ation exceptionally seriously.

"We are encouraging full co-operation with the police at parish level.

"We have also been working with the Charity Commission and will be taking appropriate measures pending the outcome of the police investigation."



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