A former Church of Scotland minister who worked in a Worcestershire hotel has been jailed for three years after being convicted for bigamy and forgery.

Roderick Sangster, 58, was found guilty of entering into a bigamous marriage by a jury at Warwick Crown Court in November.

His trial was conducted in his absence, but he handed himself in to police in the South of England earlier this week.

The court previously heard that Sangster wed Janet Wallace while still married to Jill Sangster, leaving them both thousands of pounds in debt.

Sentencing, Judge Marten Coates told him: "You left your first wife, debts had risen to impossible levels. You left your second wife bankrupt and your third partner almost destitute.

"Your motives, I am sure, were dishonest from the start. Bigamy cases are rare. I think they are rare because the public has a greater regard for the institution and obligations of marriage than you do."

Sangster's barrister, Adam Western, told Warwick Crown Court that his client wanted to apologise to the women involved - his first wife of 25 years, Frances Tait, his second wife, Jill Sangster, and Janet Wallace, whom he married illegally in 2004.

Mr Western said: "He asks and wants to tell the court through me that he regrets the hurt and embarrassment he has caused these women, in particular Janet."

Only Jill Sangster was present at court to watch as he was given a three-year sentence for bigamy, 12 months for a charge of forgery and two months for failing to attend his trail - all to run concurrently.

A statement was read out by Detective Sergeant Cawail Wong on behalf of the women and their families following the hearing.
Mr Wong said: "We are pleased with the outcome at court and that the case is finally over.

"The ladies have had closure with regards to Roderick Sangster and are now looking forward to moving on with their lives."

The trial was told that Sangster, who was once an officer in London's Metropolitan Police and a minister of the Church of Scotland, targeted financially secure, vulnerable women.

Once he had taken their money and left them in debt, he would move on to his next victim.

Sangster, whose last known address was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Trinity Street, Chester, married his second wife, Jill Sangster, formally Jackson, in Florida on August 6 1996 after legally divorcing his first wife of 25 years, Frances Tait.

Mrs Sangster, who lives in Perth, Scotland, but is originally from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was forced to declare herself bankrupt after discovering that he had run up a debt of £30,000.

Sangster then found employment in a hotel in Evesham, Worcestershire, and started internet dating where he met cancer patient Mrs Wallace.

They married at St Paul's Church in Leamington Spa on July 17 2004 before moving to Scotland.

Mrs Wallace, who lives in Flisk, near Newburgh in Fife, Scotland, had no idea her new "husband" was still married.

Sangster was also found guilty of forging her signature on a loan offer acceptance form for £10,000 from Northern Rock.

She was left with debts totalling £55,000 after he "ran away" in February last year, on the day he was due to be paid £107,500 from a book deal, which Mrs Wallace later discovered did not exist.

He was finally arrested in June last year and bailed following a court hearing where he pleaded not guilty to the charges.