A HUSBAND and wife who defrauded their Bournemouth church out of £192,000 have been jailed.

Gillian Rainford, 62, abused her position as treasurer of Charminster Spiritualist Church in Bournemouth to siphon off church funds over a two-year period.

She transferred the money into her account and that of her husband Gregory Rainford, 66, who helped her conceal the crime.

Their criminal activity was finally exposed when she was replaced as treasurer, by which time the couple had “frittered” away the entire sum.

Bournemouth Echo: Gregory and Gillian Rainford. Picture: CSC/BNPSGregory and Gillian Rainford. Picture: CSC/BNPS

The church received a bequest of £222,000 from late member Vera Lawrence in 2012.

But instead of allocating the funds to repairing the leaky roof, Mrs Rainford moved it into her personal account and spent it with her husband.

They gave gifts of £20,000 to their two children, while Mrs Rainford also spent more than £10,000 on online gambling. They also bought two cars for a combined £8,000.

The fraud, which lasted from April 2014 and April 2016, was finally exposed when the church conducted an internal investigation. The new treasurer passed on his report highlighting the financial irregularities to the police and the couple were arrested the following month.

Prosecuting, Simon Shannon said: “The sum of £192,000 was fraudulently obtained by Gillian for the joint benefit of her and her husband and children.

“They (Mr and Mrs Rainford) converted the money into goods, services and cash for their joint benefit.

“She was not reelected as treasurer as there were concerns among committee members over the accounts. They did an investigation and alerted the police to their findings.”

Mrs Rainford had been president and treasurer of the century-old church, which has 50 members, since 2008.Bournemouth Echo: The church is located in Charminster Road. Picture: BNPSThe church is located in Charminster Road. Picture: BNPS

Thomas Bushnell, mitigating for Mrs Rainford, said: “She didn’t become president and treasurer in order to commit fraud.

“A small spiritualist church could never have expected to receive such a large donation. This was an opportunistic crime, albeit it dragged out over a period of time. She is consumed by shame and guilt for what she had done.

“She recognises she abused her position and can’t say sorry enough.”

Justin Gow, mitigating for Mr Rainford, said: “He is full of remorse and so apologetic and embarrassed about what has happened.

“They (him and Mrs Rainford) didn’t spend the money on wild parties or exotic holidays. They have lost everything.”

Mrs Rainford, of St Peter’s Road, Bournemouth, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for three years and two months.

Mr Rainford, of the same address, received a 19 month prison sentence after admitting concealing, disguising or transferring criminal property.

Sentencing, Judge Robert Pawson said: “In 2012, £222,000 was bequeathed to the church and you (Mrs Rainford) were made aware of it and said you’d deal with it.

“You were the treasurer so you were in a position of ultimate trust and responsibility.

“Over the course of two years you frittered away £192,000 of church money that went into your and your husband’s account.

“It’s a tragic case because not only has the church lost a huge sum of money, you have lost everything as well.

“The only appropriate punishment (for both of you) would be immediate custody.”

Church left in 'jeopardy'

Bournemouth Echo: Charminster Spiritualist Church members who were present in court for the sentencing of Gregory and Gillian Rainford. Jackie Gunningham (centre), chairwoman of the church, said the fraud was an abuse of trust Road. Picture: BNPSCharminster Spiritualist Church members who were present in court for the sentencing of Gregory and Gillian Rainford. Jackie Gunningham (centre), chairwoman of the church, said the fraud was an abuse of trust Road. Picture: BNPS

A DOZEN members of Charminster Spiritualist Church’s committee were present to watch Gillian and Gregory Rainford being sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court.

They said the couple’s actions had caused huge damage to the cash-strapped church.

Its building is in desperate need of repairs, which the £222,000 bequest from its late member Vera Lawrence would have provided if £192,000 had not been taken by the Rainfords.

Jackie Gunningham, chairwoman of Charminster Spiritualist Church, said: “We are happy that they have received a custodial sentence but we will not get any money back, it’s gone.

“It was an abuse of trust and they stabbed us in the back. It has been very hard to deal with.

“The church desperately needed the funds which were bequeathed. It would have made a huge difference with repairs.

“They have jeopardised the future of this church.”