A Roman Catholic priest who fell in love with his housekeeper defrauded his parish of more than £50,000 while lavishing her and her daughters with gifts.
Father John Reid, 70 was supposed to live a simple life, but spent £1,200 on a canteen of cutlery, was a member of the Sunday Times Wine Club and spent £80 on oysters and smoked salmon while holidaying in Scotland.
Jane Waugh, prosecuting, said the priest, now living in Stockton, had joined the parish in 2009 and accounts showed spending increased fourfold in some areas after he took over.
She said "female clothing" had been found in the bedrooms and passports belonging to the housekeeper Gillian Leddy and her two daughters had been found in the safe.
The court heard that Fr Reid told police he had fallen in love with Gillian Leddy, and saw her daughters, Veronica and Alice, as "the family that he never had".
During the inquiry, it emerged that the priest gave property and money to the Leddys on a "large scale", buying two homes each for Veronica and Alice, a car each and financing a cafe business for them.
He also gave them both substantial amounts of cash. But Ms Waugh said the money for these gifts came from an inheritance of the priest, not the result of fraud.
Fr Reid accepted taking the Leddys out to eat "a few times a week". Over the four years he was at St Cuthbert's, his basic remuneration should have totalled £31,455.
But he disbursed to himself more than £113,000 from parish cheques. He wrote more than 150 cheques to himself, most of which were co-signed by Veronica Leddy.
"In particular, there had been dramatic increases within the categories of general administration, housekeeping and hospitality," said Ms Waugh.
"This would appear to be because Gillian, Alice and Veronica Leddy, who are mother and daughters and close friends of the defendant from his previous parish at Willington, were effectively living at the presbytery and the defendant's expenditure increased to reflect the fact that he was helping to support them financially.
"This additional expenditure was claimed back from the Church, in expenses, by the defendant," she added.
Christopher Knox, defending, spoke of 15 character references and said the priest expressed "great distress, regret and apology".
Fr Reid was handed an 18-month suspended sentence at Durham Crown Court after he admitted fraud by abuse of position at a previous hearing.
He has agreed to pay back the £50,000 within three months.