A Narberth man who stole cash from his local church’s collection box while the congregation attended a service has been sent to prison.

John Paul Adderley, 35, of Station Road, appeared from custody at Haverfordwest magistrates court on Monday, and pleaded guilty to charges of theft and failing to surrender to the court.

The court heard that Adderley was spotted at Bethesda Baptist Church on August 13 shortly before £75 was found to be missing from the collection box.

A witness described hearing ‘clicking’ and then found that the lock on donation box was damaged and the container was empty.

Adderley ran to escape police officers when they spotted him in the town on September 8, but he admitted the theft when they caught up with him ten minutes later.

He told officers that he sat on the steps next to the box, then ‘popped’ it with a small screwdriver he had with him while the service took place.

He said: “I should not have done it. It’s the lowest of the low stealing from the church.”

Adderley added that he was ashamed of himself and regretted his actions, stating that the minister was a ‘good guy’.

Mike Kelleher, defending, told magistrates that Adderley was going through a difficult time when the offence was committed and was suffering from mental health issues.

He added: “His head was all over the place.

“He telephoned the vicar to apologise, he knows him and has attended his services. He has offered to pay the money back.”

Mr Kelleher added that Adderley was now gaining some stability in his life and was ready to make a fresh start.

Magistrates sentenced Adderley to 22 weeks in prison and ordered him to pay £75 compensation, plus £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

The chairman of the bench said: “To steal from a church while a service is happening, is, as you say, the lowest of the low.

"You can’t get any lower than that.