A vicar sent a dead hedgehog to herself in a fabricated hate campaign after falling out with church officials, a court heard today.
Methodist minister Rev Janet Magee, 62, falsely claimed to police that she had been receiving threatening telephone calls and abusive letters, it was alleged.
On the strength of the minister's complaints police arrested church steward Roger Chessell who had wanted to force her out of her job.
But he was released without charge and detectives focused their inquiries on the clergywoman, believing she may have been lying about the hate campaign.
Police secretly installed a CCTV camera at her home which proved she could not have received the hedgehog in the post on the date she stated, Grimsby Crown Court was told.
Forensic evidence also proved that she had written some of the hate mail herself by using words and letters cut out from a national newspaper.
Her mobile phone had also been used to ring her own telephone landline, the jury heard.
Rev Magee, of Brigg, Lincolnshire denies carrying out a series of acts to pervert the course of justice by falsely representing that she was a crime victim.
Prosecutor Simon Waley said the defendant, who has been suspended as minister in charge of seven churches on the Brigg and Barton-upon-Humber Methodist Circuit, wanted to stay on as minister at the end of an initial five-year term.
But certain members of the church leadership including Mr Chessell viewed her as 'hard to work with' and 'not a team player.'
The vicar was not offered a further term, but she called for a vote from the whole congregation who backed her and in September 2004 she was offered a further three-year term.
Circuit stewards Mr Chessell and Mary Knaggs resigned over the issue two months later.
About this time the vicar first reported to police that she had been receiving anonymous letters typed on a computer claiming the author was unhappy at her re-election and they were 'going to get her out and nobody liked her.'
She also reported silent phone calls.
Mr Waley said a notice was read out at all the Methodist churches in the area appealing for information to uncover the mystery writer.
Magee claimed the problem continued on and off for more than two years. One letter referred to her as a 'whore.'
CCTV was covertly installed at her home.
In August 2007 when she returned from an exchange visit to the United States the minister claimed to have received a hand-delivered letter containing pieces of dog dirt.
The CCTV footage was checked by officers but nobody was found making a suspicious delivery. The following month she claimed she received a hand-delivered note accompanied by a dead hedgehog.
The note read: 'Dead like you will be soon. I told you the police could never catch me.'
The vicar was arrested and her home searched. An envelope was found containing newspaper cuttings and letters removed from them had been sent with the hedgehog, it was alleged.
She said she could give no explanation when confronted with the evidence herself and told officers:'If I was you I would be thinking she has done it herself.'
Later she added: 'It stinks. Whoever set me up has done it brilliantly. I take my hat off to them.'
Mr Waley told the jury exactly why Magee embarked on her course of conduct was not the easiest question to answer, but it was not part of their deliberations to work out what was going through her mind.
The hearing continues.
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