The wife of a former church minister accused of bigamy described to a jury yesterday the moment she came face to face with her husband’s new “wife”.

Jill Sangster, formally Jackson, told Warwick Crown Court she discovered her estranged husband Roderick Sangster had married Janet Pollard in 2004 when the pair met three years later. Mrs Sangster said Ms Pollard contacted her after discovering that 58-year-old Sangster had left her £55,000 in debt.

Mrs Sangster, who lives in Perth, Scotland, told the jury: “She said she was married to a Rod Sangster and was it the same one? I got out the wedding photographs and showed her. She confirmed it was him and the beach where we got married, she had been there with him.”

Sangster, who did not attend his trial, is alleged to have married Ms Pollard on July 17, 2004 while still married to Mrs Sangster, leaving them both thousands of pounds in debt. The jury was told that Mrs Sangster, originally from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, had to declare herself bankrupt after discovering that he had run up a debt of £30,000. She wept as she said she “didn’t realise the extent of the debt” until he left her in 2002.

The court was told that Sangster, once an officer in the Metropolitan Police and a minister of the Scottish church, looked for financially secure, vulnerable women. Prosecutor David Jones said: “He looked for vulnerable ladies with some degree of financial stability which gave him the opportunity to get monies from them.”

When the money ran out, he would move on to another woman, Mr Jones said.

Sangster, whose last known address was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester, married Mrs Sangster in Florida on August 6 1996, after legally divorcing his first wife of 25 years, with whom he had four children.

Described in court as a “conman”, Sangster began divorce proceedings but had a “change of heart”, the jury was told. In 2003, he wrote to Mrs Sangster telling her she would not get a divorce.

The letter, posted in the US, was read out by Mr Jones and said: “I would have given you whatever you wanted - a divorce, cash, anything. Now you get nothing because you have turned down all my offers to help. You don’t ever get the divorce because you will not be able to reach me.”

The court was shown the marriage certificate and, asked if she had divorced him, Mrs Sangster replied: “No.”

Sangster later found employment at a hotel in Evesham, Worcestershire, and started internet dating where he met Ms Pollard, who was recovering from cancer. He moved in with her in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, after telling her he had divorced Mrs Sangster, Mr Jones said. They married at St Paul’s Church in Leamington Spa on July 17, 2004 .

Sangster is also accused of forging Ms Pollard’s signature to obtain a £10,000 loan from Northern Rock.

The trial continues.