UPDATE: The Anglican Archbishop of Perth has described one of his own reverends as "reprehensible" after he refused to return a $6500 bracelet to its owners unless they paid him half its value.
When Clyde and Lesley Bevan were told the $6500 gold and diamond bracelet they had lost months ago had been found, they were delighted and grateful to the person who picked it up in a carpark.
Their happiness turned into incredulity when the finder told them he now owned the jewellery under a law that allows finders to keep unclaimed lost property after two months.
He said he would give Mr and Mrs Bevan the bracelet but only if they made a claim under their insurance policy and gave him half the payout.
The couple were surprised when they discovered the finder was a clergyman, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe, of St Paul's Anglican Church in City Beach.
The Rev. McAuliffe, who said he was a former lawyer, explained he was simply offering to share his windfall with the Bevans.
"It would be nice to keep it but I felt it would be best to get it back to them," he said. "They can get it back for 50 per cent."
The incident has left the church embarrassed and apologetic, with Archbishop Roger Herft saying the Reverend was now facing disciplinary action and the possibility of being removed from his position.
"I find the whole story to be quite reprehensible. There is an issue in the law, but once the owner was established the moral code must apply," Archbishop Herft said.
"There will be some explaining to be done, and I am hopeful Rev. McAuliffe regrets it deeply."
After the issue was made public in The West Australian today, the Reverend - a former lawyer - backed down from his stance and agreed to return the bracelet to the couple.
But Archbishop Herft said his actions were too little, too late and he had personally apologised to the Bevans.
"The right decision has been made but it should have been made right at the beginning," Archbishop Herft told ABC radio.
"The couple have acted with gracious restraint in their exchanges, and they have every right to feel extremely angry.
"People expect a much higher standard and moral guidance from the clergy."
Mr Bevan, who owns the Friends restaurant in Perth with wife Lesley, bought the bracelet, which is adorned with 16 diamonds, for her birthday more than eight years ago.
Mrs Bevan unknowingly dropped the bracelet in a restaurant carpark in Inglewood in February and it was found by the Rev. McAuliffe, who took it to a police station where it was registered as found property.
The Rev. McAuliffe said under the Criminal and Found Property Disposal Act 2006, he became the owner of the bracelet when police contacted him in May to let him know that it had not been claimed.
The clergyman said he became aware of the security code, which led him to the Bevans, imprinted on the bracelet when he took it to be valued and insured.
Mr Bevan said they were delighted when they heard from the jeweller from whom they bought the bracelet that it had been found.
The jeweller passed on the Rev. McAuliffe's details and Mr Bevan emailed him to arrange collection.
The Rev McAuliffe responded: "As you have thus lost ownership of the bracelet, you have a valid claim against your insurer for its insured value. On the basis that equality is equity, I would be prepared to sell it to you for 50 per cent of its insured value."
Mr Bevan said yesterday he was disappointed police were not able to find him from the security code as the Rev. McAuliffe did.
The dispute over the bracelet seemed to be in a stalemate last night, with the Rev. McAuliffe standing by his offer to the Bevans.
"I have been given a gift fallen from the sky," he said.
"What do I do with my gift? That's up to me to decide. I'm just offering to share the windfall."