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Man quizzed over vicar's murder

Police have been given more time to question a man on suspicion of murder after a clergyman was stabbed to death at his vicarage.

The Rev John Suddards, 59, was found on Tuesday with multiple wounds in Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, Avon and Somerset Police said.

A 43-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday over the murder and officers have been given extra time to question the suspect.

As the community mourned, a senior clergyman said the murder should act as a warning - that when clergy open their churches and homes to people, they become "vulnerable".

The Ven Geoffrey Sidaway, Archdeacon of Gloucester, said: "Sadly, this event highlights the vulnerable nature of parish ministry in some of our communities today. Many clergy on a daily basis open their homes and their churches to people and clearly that can put them in a vulnerable situation."

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp, who is leading the investigation, confirmed the body was that of Mr Suddards, adding: "He suffered multiple stab wounds, and therefore this is now a murder investigation. A 43-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder."

Appealing for the help of Thornbury villagers, he said detectives were asking churchgoers to come forward to tell them what they knew about the clergyman, who visited him and who he associated with.

The news has sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, which lies about 11 miles north of Bristol. The St Mary's vicar had only taken up his post last July, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford.

A former barrister, Mr Suddards moved to the area after serving at St Nicolas Church in Witham, Essex, since 2001 and before that at Great Yeldham parish, 20 miles away. When he took up the post at St Nicolas, the clergyman, originally from Yorkshire, spoke of how he joined the priesthood after a road accident.

Mr Sidaway said it could be "weeks or months" before a funeral can take place, and the Bishop of Gloucester will be visiting Thornbury on Friday evening for a short service.


From Belfast Telegraph