A West Bromwich vicar, who was sacked for having an extra-marital affair, today refused to leave his home as the Church of England tried to repossess the property.
Officials from the Diocese of Lichfield tried to get Dr Patrick Okechi, aged 46, to hand over the keys to the vicarage in Bromford Lane, but he refused.
Dr Okechi allowed Diocesan property manager Andy Mason and church maintenance surveyor Simon Gray into the house for 25 minutes but they left empty-handed.
Gavin Drake, the diocese director of communications, said: “We have not got the keys, but we will now go away and consider our options.”
Yesterday, at an employment tribunal, the former vicar of the Church of The Good Shepherd with St John in West Bromwich claimed the church had engaged in a conspiracy to oust him from his post.
He accused lawyers of colluding with senior officers of the Church to oust him from the Church of England. Dr Okechi claimed the Bishop of Wolverhampton conspired with two solicitors, who he named, to ensure his case against the Church was not heard in court.
Dr Okechi alleged the Bishop colluded with the lawyers to mislead him and make him miss the deadline to present his case before a judge.
He later took back the claims against the pair and Employment Judge Peter Gilroy directed him to make it clear in writing who exactly the claims were against. Dr Okechi is seeking reinstatement, compensation, holiday pay and notice pay and claims he was unfairly dismissed from his job.
In December, a tribunal barred him from holding the office of a priest for 10 years after he was found guilty of having an extra-marital affair. Dr Okechi, who has three children with his wife, has always denied the affair.
Last month, the disgraced vicar was ordered to vacate the vicarage of his former parish after a Judge at Birmingham County Court found his right to remain at the property ended when he was sacked.
Dr Okechi told the tribunal his family were now homeless, and that they relied on his wife’s wages to survive.
In a statement read in court, Dr Okechi said: “I strongly believe there was a collaboration between the parishioners and the Church warden against me and my family.”
He added that the Church “insisted on providing me with their own solicitors, who I feel misled me.”
Judge Gilroy adjourned the case in order for Dr Okechi to put his allegations in writing.
Dr Okechi, who is currently claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, was ordered to pay £2,500 costs to the respondent’s solicitors. The Diocese of Lichfield argues that Dr Okechi made his claim for reinstatement outside the allowed time limit and was not officially a “worker” but was simply “exercising his Holy Orders."