A respected Archdruid walked free from court today after being cleared of fraudulently claiming more than £40,000 in benefits.
Self-styled 'Keeper of the Stones' Terry Dobney, 62, was alleged to have claimed income support despite having up to £30,000 in savings which he failed to declare.
The bearded Druid leads the annual Summer Solstice celebrations by the pre-historic Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire, as well as performing handfastings, marriages and other ceremonies.
A jury found Dobney not guilty of three charges of false representation to gain benefits and exemption of liability following a three-day trial at Salisbury Crown Court.
They accepted his claim that the cash was collecter for his elderly mother and acquitted him on a majority verdict.
The emotional Druid, who has long flowing brown hair, a thick chest-length curly grey beard and walks with a wooden staff, was told he was able to leave the dock a free man by Judge John Dixon.
Dressed in a brown coat and green cord trousers, Dobney wore his trademark tweed cap with a pheasant feather - but left his flowing druid robes at home.
Speaking outside court, he said: 'Truth, honour and justice has prevailed.
'It was my mother's money - she was an old woman living on very little. If a son had money - why wouldn't he give some of it to her?
'I have had 23 operations on my legs and I was fully entitled to the benefits I was getting.
'I was confident in my beliefs - although I appreciated one or two people would be against me - and I have been fully vindicated.
Ritual: Dobney leads the annual Summer Solstice celebrations by the pre-historic Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire
'It was just a shame that my mother's name had to be brought into all this.'
The prosecution claimed he banked £32,183.47 in income support and £8,143.87 in council tax, taking his total fraud to £40,337.44 between 2000 and 2008.
Dobney, of West Kennett, Wiltshire, told the trial he was planning to use the money to buy a new thatched roof for his Grade II listed property.
The Druid has been a regular at the famous Avebury stones for the summer solstice festivities since 1969 - gradually becoming more involved in the ceremonies each year.
He is now 'keeper of the stones' at the ancient Pagan ritual - which celebrates the shortest night and the longest day.
Hundreds of revellers flocking to the site each year to watch him lead the celebrations.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1374515/Archdruid-Keeper-Stones-Terry-Dobney-cleared-40k-benefit-fraud.html#ixzz1IxGTDvFq