Belfast Telegraph

'Unanswered questions' over death of Portadown pensioner, admits church minister

Found dead: Victor Pickering
Found dead: Victor Pickering

By Mairead Holland

A church minister has acknowledged there are "unanswered questions" about the tragic death of a pensioner in Portadown.

Victor Pickering (84) was discovered dead at his home in Levaghery Close on Wednesday by a friend who had gone to check on him.

The visitor is understood to have smelt gas fumes after peering through the letter box and alerted emergency services.

Mr Pickering's wife Betty, who is in her 80s, was in the house at the time. She is being treated at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Mr Pickering's funeral will take place on Tuesday.

The Rev Robin Brown is minister of First Portadown Presbyterian Church, where the couple were regular worshippers.

He said the priority is the "ongoing pastoral care of Betty, who remains ill in hospital, and practical support for son Paul as he returns home later today to begin to finalise plans for his father's funeral".

Paul Pickering, the couple's only child, was on holiday when the tragedy took place.

Mr Brown said it was "a great shock and a cause of much sadness" to learn of Mr Pickering's death.

"As far as I know, there are unanswered questions about what occurred in the family home and a police investigation is continuing," he added.

He described Mr Pickering as a much-loved and highly-respected member of the church.

"Victor and Betty were regularly at morning and evening worship and midweek meetings until age and infirmity restricted their mobility," he added.

"I was last visiting in their home in March and they were with us at an evening service around two months ago."

Neighbours of the couple have been expressing their shock and sadness.

They were described by one man as "living for each other", while another person described them as "quiet, private people" and "really good neighbours".

Mr Pickering was an honorary life member and former secretary of First Portadown BB Old Boys' Association.

Portadown UUP councillor Kenneth Twyble said he had known Mr Pickering for a lifetime and was "heartbroken" at his death.

He said: "I always found him to be a most gracious and humble man who gave a lifetime of service to young people, mainly through the Boys' Brigade and the wider church."

Police said they are working to establish the full circumstances surrounding the death.

Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan said: "At this stage we do not believe anyone else was involved in this incident."

A private interment will take place followed by a service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Pickering in the church on Tuesday at noon.

Mr Pickering is survived by his wife Betty, son Paul, daughter-in-law Kate, sister Lila, brother-in-law Randall and family circle.

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