A CHURCH has been given a £100,000 Christmas windfall after a court decided they could keep a bag full of money dumped on a doorstep.

The bin bag of cash was found outside a former vicarage in York in August and handed over to the police. Detectives thought it may be criminal property, but they could find no evidence that it was linked to crime and the money has now been awarded to St Thomas with St Maurice Church in Lowther Street, which owns the property where it was found.

Eleanor Course, from the Diocese of York, said the church would use the money to help community groups although detailed plans are yet to be drawn up. She said: "It's great news for the church".

The money is two-and-a-half times the churches annual income of £40,000.

The bag was found outside the house in Haxby road on Tuesday, August 20, which coincided with bin-collection day in the neighbourhood. The householder, who was keen to remain anonymous, found it and called the police.

They appealed for information and for the owner of the money to come forward, Detective Inspector Andrea Kell from York CID said it was a "very unusual find" but after months of waiting the mystery remained unsolved.

With no one coming forward to claim the cash a hearing was held at York magistrates court and it was agreed it should go to St Thomas with St Maurice Church in line with the Police Property Act of 1897. This effectively allows the owners or finders of property to get it back from the police.

A police spokesman said the bag of money found on the doorstep was originally treated as potential criminal property, but with no definite link to crime and insufficient evidence to pursue a forfeit of the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act, it was eventually dealt with under the Lost and Found procedure.