By B1,, DAVIES A KENT PRIEST who police want to interview in connection with the disappearance of Church funds left Britain for "a holiday" in Australia last week.
Fr Seamus Hetherton, the former parish priest of The Twelve Apostles in Swanley, was expected at Dartford Police Station for questioning on February 17. When he failed to appear, police learnt from his solicitor that Fr hetherton was visiting a friend in Australia. He is now being sought through Interpol.
Kent police want to speak to Fr Hetherton in connection with the theft of £104,750 from the Archdiocese of Southwark. Five earlier charges against Fr Netherton were dropped last September due to insufficient evidence.
-We are hoping that Fr Hetherton will give himself up when he realises Interpol are looking for him," Detective Constable Charlie Bennett of North Kent Police told the Catholic Herald.
Fr Hetherton has not admitted playing any part in the embezzlement, although he repaid some of the original money that had gone missing from parish funds. "He originally owed £215,000 but paid a lot of it back," police said. "He said he got the money from family businesses in Ireland."
Fr Richard Moth, spokesman for the Southwark Archdiocese, said: "The Diocese very much regrets that Fr Seamus Hetherton did not arrive for his appointment with the Kent Police on I7 February.
"Since the matter is currently in the hands of the police and Fr Hetherton's solicitor no further comment can be made at this stage."
The police were originally alerted to Fr Hetherton's activities by concerned parents at St Bartholemew's RC Primary School, Swanley, in 1996. Fr Hetherton, who was Chairman of the School Committee, accused the school's headmistress, Sister of Mercy nun Sr Clotilde Stephens, of misusing school funds. The committee then elected to strip Sr Clotilde of her authority. She resigned and Fr Hetherton later refused her request to be reinstated. In August 1996, Sr Clotilde won her case for unfair dismissal from the school.
Church sources told the Catholic Herald that Fr Hetherton left his former parish in good financial shape.