A MAN has been charged in connection with a violent robbery during which a churchgoer was allegedly attacked as he prayed.
The frail pensioner is said to have been hit with a plank of wood as he knelt at the altar, in St Bede’s Roman Catholic Church in Sacriston, County Durham, earlier this month.
The alleged attacker then made off with the 71-year-old’s wallet, containing £140 in cash.
Officers from Northumbria Police, acting for their colleagues in Durham, arrested a 44-year-old man from the Swalwell area of Gateshead on Saturday night.
And Clive Morrison, of no fixed abode, appeared before Consett Magistrates yesterday, charged with robbery. The victim, named locally as Terry Finlay, was said to have been savagely beaten around the head with the plank of wood and had his money stolen.
The devout Catholic was deep in prayer when he was set upon, at around 8.30am, on Thursday, June 4.
The pensioner suffered bruising and swelling to his head but, fortunately, was not seriously hurt. Father Jim Cronin, the priest at the church, on Front Street, was horrified by the robbery.
He said Mr Finlay was a regular churchgoer and a devout Catholic.
“He worships here every day,” Father Cronin explained. “He comes early, before mass, and is usually left in peace to pray on his own.
“He came himself to tell me someone has been charged. He seems much better and fortunately has not suffered too much long-term trauma. I think it is also partly because he is not an antagonistic kind of man. He is very positive, and is trying to carry on as before.”
Det Sgt Amanda Henderson, of Durham Police, has thanked the public for their help with the investigation and the information they gave following an appeal in The Journal.
The case has been adjourned until a later date.