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Vicar bailed over baby death


The vicarage in Freckleton, Lancashire

The vicarage in Freckleton, Lancashire

The vicarage in Freckleton, Lancashire

A vicar, his wife and daughter have been bailed by police investigating the suspicious death of a baby.

Reverend Jim Percival, 64, the vicar of Holy Trinity CE Church in Freckleton, Lancashire, was arrested on Tuesday with his wife Susan, 64, and daughter Ruth, 28, after the suspicious death of a baby boy.

Mr Percival and his daughter were questioned on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

His wife was questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

Today Lancashire Police said all three had been bailed until March 5, next year.

The arrests earlier this week came after police were called to an address in Freckleton, believed to be the vicarage, shortly before 6pm on November 25, exactly a week earlier, following an initial report that a woman had given birth to a stillborn baby.

Police said following "numerous inquiries" the death of the baby boy was being treated as suspicious.

A post-mortem examination proved inconclusive, with further tests being carried out to try to establish exactly how the baby died.

Locals said the drama began last Tuesday evening when an ambulance was seen at the large detached house, followed soon afterwards by police.

Police cars and vans then came and went from the house, at the end of a secluded lane next to a farm, throughout last week.

Asked how long people had known of police activity at the vicar's house, one local replied: "This is a village. Nano-seconds."

More police activity continued at the house yesterday as a van arrived with half a dozen officers, who carried a large toolbox into the house.

Locals in the picturesque village close to the Fylde coast were shocked by the developments.

At Mr Percival's own church, parishioners said prayers for him and his family at a service yesterday morning led by Reverend Terry Scholz, also from Holy Trinity Church.

"I simply said they could not be unaware of the tragedy that had befallen them, Reverend Percival and his family," he said.

"And I reminded them of this coming Sunday's reading - that God came to John the Baptist not in the comfort of his sitting room, but in the darkness and scariness of the wilderness, and God will be with our church family in the wilderness and we must pray that we keep our faith and pray for the family."

Mr Scholz said it would be wrong to "jump to conclusions" and said the wider "Church family" of parishioners at Holy Trinity would now pull together.

He added: "They are all nice people and, like any family going through difficult times, they will pull together. Like any family when it's going through troubles, you close ranks. They are all upset and concerned."

Mr Percival came to the parish from Great Harwood in Lancashire 11 years ago.

His daughter Ruth is believed to have previously worked in a care home.

The Diocese of Blackburn said it is offering pastoral support to the Freckleton community.

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