BY SCO Admin | November 22 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1A-FIRE-DAMAGE

Priests under attack

By Ian Dunn and Martin Dunlop

An arson blaze and robberies show that Scotland’s priests are, once again, being targeted by opportunistic criminals.

Priests in Scotland are increasingly living in fear after several crimes against clergy came to light this week.

A vindictive arson attack on Holy Cross parish in Glasgow saw two priests’ cars destroyed and severe damage caused to the parish house. There has also been a separate robbery at another Glasgow parish and a man in Perthshire was convicted for robbing an 80-year-old priest shortly after his golden jubilee.

While none of these attacks are thought to be sectarian in nature, concerns are growing that priests, who often live alone in tied accommodation near parishes, are again being seen as ‘easy targets’ for opportunistic thieves and vandals.

Police have said the blaze, that began with a fire in the garage at Holy Cross parish, was started deliberately in the early hours of Wednesday November 13.

Parish priest Fr Neil Donnachie and curate Fr Paul Brooks were alerted when the alarm on Fr Donnachie’s car went off.  “We went down to see flames coming from the car and garage, and when the fire brigade got here it took them an hour to bring the fire under control,” Fr Brooks said. “The house was very close to going up too. The windows nearest the fire imploded.”

Both priests’ cars and the garage (right) were entirely destroyed and Fr Brooks said the experience had been ‘pretty terrifying’ not least as the vindictive attack appeared to have come ‘out of the blue.’

Police want to trace two men who were seen leaving the scene of the fire. One was wearing a white T-shirt and dark denim jeans. The other was wearing a dark hooded top and light grey jogging trousers.

Det Insp Joe McKerns of Police Scotland said it was ‘very fortunate’ that the two priests who live in the chapel house were not injured.

Concerns have also been raised in another Glasgow parish after it was recently targeted by thieves who gained access to the church sacristy and left with a small sum of money. The parish priest did not want the parish to be identified for fear of copycat crime.

In Perthshire this week a thief has admitted breaking into the house of a retired priest of Dunkeld Diocese in the summer, stealing the clergyman’s valuable collection of whisky and cognac.

Simon Winks, a prisoner in Perth, has been warned that he faces a lengthy spell in prison after robbing 80-year-old Mgr Hugh McInally at his Perthshire home.

The attack took place on July 17, when Mr Winks broke into the priest’s house, stealing alcohol, two holdalls and a mobile phone.

The break in at Mgr McInally’s residence occurred shortly after the priest had celebrated his 80th birthday and the golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. The majority of the alcohol stolen was gifted to the clergyman from friends and parishioners.

Sheriff Fiona Tait deferred sentence for reports but warned Mr Winks, who has been remanded in custody, that he faces a lengthy prison sentence.

 

 

ian@sconews.co.uk

martin@sconews.co.uk

 

—This story ran in full in the November 22 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.

 

 

 

 

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