A MINISTER accused of fraud and embezzlement reimbursed a bride he allegedly swindled out of hundreds of pounds — but only after police launched an investigation into his activities, a trial has heard.

Two years earlier, Douglas Cranston had informed the woman she'd have to pay him upfront to secure St Columba's Church in Kilmacolm for her nuptials, and that further fees would follow, Greenock Sheriff Court was told.

But after detectives became involved and Church of Scotland bosses were made aware of a catalogue of alleged dishonesty by him, Cranston is said to have stumped up a refund to the woman.

She told the court that after meeting Cranston, 58, and viewing the church in September 2014 he asked her to send him a cheque for £200 in order to 'confirm' the wedding booking for July 2 2016.

The woman, 39 — a university business manager — said she made the cheque out specifically to 'R D Cranston' on September 12 2014 and received an email from the accused minister three days later stating: "Received with thanks and booked, warm regards, RDC."

She said: "I remember asking about costs and I was told it would be £200 to secure, but nearer the date (of the wedding) there would be a further charge and a fee for the organist.

"I asked what the additional fee would be and the response was that it varied on a yearly basis and the church committee would decide closer to the time."

Asked by prosecutor David Glancy if her £200 cheque was cashed, the witness replied: "Yes, the funds were removed from my account a few days later."

The court was told that the woman was ultimately not charged any additional fees for the organist, or her wedding service, which was performed by another minister.

Asked by fiscal depute Mr Glancy why she made the cheque out to Cranston, the witness said: "I must have asked him and was told to make it out to R D Cranston.

"I think from memory he handed me a bit of paper with his details on it."

The woman — who said she'd budgeted for total church costs of between £400 and £500 — added: "The £200 was refunded to me from Mr Cranston, certainly after the police investigation.

"From memory there was also a letter from Mr Cranston's lawyer that Mr Cranston had never been charged.

"It sort of suggested that the case was not being taken any further.

"I think it was just after I was married that I received the refund."

Cranston is facing seven counts of alleged financial dishonesty whilst minister of St Columba's, including claims he twice conned a grieving family.

Around 20 well people sat in the court's public gallery, listening intently to the evidence on the first day of the trial on Monday — an two of them jotted down notes as the initial witness testified.

Prosecutors say Cranston pocketed cash from collections taken at four funerals, embezzled money from his own flock and hoodwinked couples into giving him personal cheques for weddings.

Two charges allege that he told the daughters of a deceased Port Glasgow couple that he would conduct collections for dementia charities at their funerals, but retained the money for himself.

It is further claimed that at another funeral he induced mourners into donating towards the church and obtained £163 by fraud.

At a ceremony at Greenock Crematorium he is said to have taken a collection for the British Heart Foundation and 'the poor of Kilmacolm' and again kept the cash.

It is claimed that Cranston told three couples planning their weddings with him that deposits were required and asked for cheques to made payable into his personal bank account.

Prosecutors say he embezzled a total of £500 from his congregation through the alleged wedding cons.

The alleged offences are said to have been committed between February 1 2013 and June 3 2015.

Cranston no longer resides at the parish manse on Kilmacolm's Churchill Road and now lives in a second-floor flat in Renfrew, according to court papers.

He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him.

The case has been adjourned until October 12 in order for dates to be fixed for the continuation of the trial.