POLICE arrested on Wednesday a 43-year-old man on suspicion of the murder of the Vicar of Thornbury, in Gloucestershire, the Revd John Suddards. Mr Suddards had been found dead at the vicarage on Tuesday morning by two builders appointed to carry out work. He had suffered multiple stab wounds.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp is urging people with information to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. He is particularly keen to hear from anybody who saw Mr Suddards after 12.30 p.m. on Monday.
“We are determined to bring whoever is responsible for the Reverend’s death to justice, and have a team of officers working on this investigation around the clock,” he said.
On his arrival in Thornbury in July last year, Mr Suddards, aged 59, assumed responsibility for St Mary’s and St Paul’s in Thornbury, as well as St Arilda’s in Oldbury, and Shepperdine Chapel. Previously Team Rector and Rural Dean of Witham, Essex, he had been ordained in 1989. He had left a career as a barrister after a serious car accident in 1982.
He had spent seven months in the paraplegic ward of a hospital in Winchester, and told a Gloucestershire newspaper last year that the experience had led him to believe that he should join the ordained ministry of the Church. “Lawyers can do two things: they can separate people, and they can transfer money, but not much more than that. I felt I would like to do much more than that.”
A former editor of the Church Times, Dr Bernard Palmer, who lives in Witham, said on Wednesday that parishioners there were in a state of shock. He said that Mr Suddards had been a “great success” in Witham.
The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, and the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd John Went, said that they were “shocked and saddened” by the news of his death.
Leading a service for parishioners at St Paul’s, Thornbury, on Wednesday morning, Bishop Went said: “Our hearts very much go out to you as a church community, but also across the wider community that will be absolutely stunned at this time.”
The Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Revd Christopher Morgan, described Mr Suddards as “faithful, good-humoured, and energetic.
“Very many people — myself certainly included — will therefore have been grateful not only for John’s pastoral ministry, but also for his human friendship. He has been cruelly snatched away. May he now rest in peace and rise to glory.”
The Bishop of Gloucester will lead a service today to commemorate Mr Suddards, at Thornbury Baptist Church, starting at 7pm. A diocesan announcement said that the service will give the local and wider community "an opportunity to come together at this difficult time to remember and give thanks for John's friendship and ministry."
All are welcome.