Vicar murder suspect questioned


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The Independent Online

Police were continuing to question a 43-year-old man today on suspicion of murdering a clergyman at his vicarage.

The Rev John Suddards, 59, was found stabbed to death at his home in Castle Street in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, on Tuesday.

Detectives from Avon and Somerset Police arrested an unnamed man on Tuesday evening.

He remains in custody after officers were granted extra time to quiz him and police have until this evening to either charge or release him.

Around 300 people, including local MP Steve Webb, last night filled Thornbury Baptist Church, around half a mile from where Mr Suddards was found dead, to help each other through the tragedy.

The Rt Rev Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, led the service.

Speaking beforehand, he said it was important local people had the opportunity to share their grief with others and gain comfort from worship.

He described Mr Suddards as "a good man and a fine priest", and added: We come to share shock and grief and to support one another and to affirm Thornbury as a good place to live despite this tragedy."

It emerged earlier that police had seized a white van just hours after the man being held in custody was arrested.

The white Citroen was lifted on to a low-loader and taken away from a property in Knapp Road - around a mile from the vicarage - at about 11.30pm on Tuesday.

It is believed a man in his 40s had been sleeping in the van.

Officers have also searched the house and grounds around the property in Knapp Road.

Detectives are trying to put together a picture of Mr Suddards' personal and social life and are believed to have contacted clergy at his former parish.

Police have appealed for information about a man who was sitting on the pavement outside St Mary's Church on Monday evening between 6pm and 8pm.

He was of average build and was wearing dark clothing.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp, who is leading the investigation, said: "We think this man may be able to help us. If you were passing by, please get in touch."

The alarm was raised by workmen who arrived at the vicarage next to St Mary's Church on Tuesday morning and realised it was locked.

The news sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, which lies about 11 miles north of Bristol.

In a statement released by police, the vicar's family said they were "devastated with the news of John's untimely and shocking death".

The St Mary's vicar took up his post only last July, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford in Essex.

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