Murder inquiry after priest, 80, is found dead

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The Independent Online
A ROMAN CATHOLIC priest was found dead at his home in the West Midlands after he failed to turn up to say Mass yesterday morning.

Police launched a murder inquiry after the body of Fr Paul Orchard, 80, was found at his presbytery in Brandhall. Police said a man was in custody in connection with the priest's death.

The alarm was raised by parishioners after he failed to appear at the Church of Our Lady and St Hubert. About 50, who had arrived to attend Mass, waited outside as the police entered the property, where he lived alone.

Last night church-goers were still trying to take in what had happened to their priest, who was held in high regard.

Marie Neary, 41, said: "We are all very shocked. Father Orchard had been the priest here for about five years.

"He was a nice, very private man and he was still very sprightly for his age.There have been a number of break-ins recently and the collection box was taken.

"He was probably viewed as being fair game."

Pauline Bill, 38, who lives close to the church, said: "I often hear the alarm going off and go to check to see if he is OK. Last Thursday there was a lot of shouting and I heard him telling people to go away. He was an elderly man, but he was very strong - he didn't put up with any nonsense."

The presbytery is joined to the church by a roofed corridor in which it is believed that the priest's body was found.

Father Paul McNally, spokesman for the Birmingham archdiocese said: "We are shocked and saddened at the tragic death of Fr Orchard. Priests are vulnerable today because they live, usually on their own, next to the church so as to be available to all their parishioners and anyone in need.

"We would ask for prayers for the parishioners and Fr Paul's family."