Village in shock rallies round death probe vicar

Police search: Police officers at the family home in Sunnyside Close, Freckleton, last week, below, On bail: Rev Jim Percival
Police search: Police officers at the family home in Sunnyside Close, Freckleton, last week, below, On bail: Rev Jim Percival

Shocked villagers have rallied round a vicar and his wife and daughter after they were quizzed by murder squad detectives over the death of a newborn baby boy.

The clergyman standing in for the suspended Rev Jim Percival called for prayers at Holy Trinity Church in Freckleton yesterday and revealed: “The whole village is supporting them.”

Holy Trinity Church graves shortage. Rev Jim Percival in front of the last plots available.

Holy Trinity Church graves shortage. Rev Jim Percival in front of the last plots available.

Rev Percival, 64, his wife Susan, 65, and their 28-year-old daughter Ruth were questioned last week before being released on bail until March 5.

Police said the vicar and his daughter had been arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child. Mrs Percival was also arrested on suspicion of the conspiracy allegation.

Rev Terry Sholtz, who is also based at Holy Trinity, helped Archdeacon Michael Everitt conduct Sunday communion, before telling The Gazette: “We are all trying to make sense of it all.

“But there is an overwhelming belief that it will be resolved and the family will be able to resume their lives.

“We are all supporting them with prayers and messages. The response has been tumultuous. There have been lots of cards and notes put through the doors of the vicarage.

“One villager even left a box of home-made flapjacks for them with a note of support.

“There is a very caring community in Freckleton and the support from us will go on as long as they need it. We will be there for them.”

Services went on as normal at Holy Trinity yesterday, although the Percivals were not present.

“The family are in a safe place being cared for pastorally and spiritually,” said Archdeacon Everitt.

“But the church’s procedures are that anyone who is arrested on suspicion of a serious crime is automatically suspended until the police have completed their investigations. It has been the most difficult thing any family would ever have to face.

“The fact they are together, taking every day at a time is tremendous.

“This has been an utterly painful and difficult week for the community of Freckleton. Not only has there been great sadness, but also confusion.

“I am satisfied that the police are doing all that they need to do in order to get full clarification of the situation.”

The events of last week sent shockwaves through the close-knit village. Rev Sholtz said news of the arrests had travelled quickly.

An ambulance had first been called to the family home in Sunnyside Close on Tuesday, November 25, to reports of a stillborn baby.

The body of the baby boy, along with his mother, Miss Percival, were taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where a post-mortem examination of the youngster proved inconclusive, police said.

Neighbours said a “huge presence of police” followed at the family home, with crime scene investigators and police officers making detailed searches of the property.

And last Tuesday night, the three family members were arrested and interviewed by police before being released on bail.