Vicar, daughter held after baby’s death



Published Dec 4, 2014


London - A vicar and his daughter have been arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of her baby boy was found at their village vicarage.

Reverend Jim Percival, 64, and his wife Susan, 65, were held alongside their 28-year-old daughter Ruth at their £400 000 home in the village of Freckleton, Lancashire.

The arrests followed the discovery of the baby’s body at the vicarage last week. Police were called on Tuesday after reports that Miss Percival had given birth to a stillborn baby.

She allegedly told officers that the baby had shown no signs of life at birth, and she was taken to hospital for medical checks.

Miss Percival was later discharged - but police launched an investigation into the death and ordered a post-mortem examination on the baby’s body.

After “numerous inquiries” failed to establish how the baby boy died, senior officers declared his death to be suspicious.

The vicar and his daughter were arrested at the vicarage on suspicion of murder, sex offences and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child. The vicar’s wife, Mrs Percival, was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

It has since emerged that in the days following the death of the baby, Reverend Percival disappeared from the village leaving behind a note which outlined what hymns and bible readings he wanted at his funeral. The well-respected vicar then reappeared in the village on Tuesday just hours before the switch-on of the Christmas lights.

He mixed with the crowd who had gathered to watch the event, then returned to the vicarage later that night. Police swooped on his return and arrested the vicar, his daughter and his wife.

On Wednesday night residents in the picture-postcard village said the arrests had shocked the whole community.

A neighbour said: “The village is running amok with talk. I live nearby and the vicarage has been littered by police and people doing fingertip searches.”

Reverend Percival and his wife of 37 years are well-known and said to be respected locally.

As well as his role as a school governor at Freckleton Church of England Primary School, the vicar also helps administer the Freckleton War Disaster Fund – a charity started after 61 people were killed when a US Air Force bomber crash-landed on the village school during a storm in 1944.

The couple have two daughters, Ruth, who works as a cleaner, and Joan, 35. On Wednesday night Reverend Percival, his wife and his daughter were all being questioned by police at Blackpool police station – although officers stressed that none of them have been charged with an offence.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “At shortly before 6pm on Tuesday, November 25, police were called to an address in Freckleton following an initial report that a woman had given birth to a stillborn baby.

“When police attended the body of a newly-born baby boy was discovered at the address and an investigation was launched. The baby’s mother, a 28-year-old woman, was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where she was treated and later released.”

They added: “Following numerous inquiries the death of the baby is now being treated as suspicious. A post-mortem examination has been carried out and the cause of death is currently inconclusive. Further tests are now being carried out to try to establish exactly how the baby died.

“A 64-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman from Freckleton have been arrested on suspicion of murder, conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child and sexual offences and a 65-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child. They are all currently in custody.”

On Wednesday night the Diocese of Blackburn, which oversees the church at Freckleton, said it would be offering support to the parish following the arrests.

Daily Mail

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