Hundreds celebrate life of murdered vicar

Suddards: 'a lovely man'. Picture: PA
Suddards: 'a lovely man'. Picture: PA
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HUNDREDS of people yesterday paid their last respects to a clergyman found stabbed to death in the hallway of his home.

Reverend John Suddards, 59, who was discovered in his vicarage on St Valentine’s Day, was given a last goodbye in the church where he was installed as vicar just eight-and-a-half months ago.

The news of his death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, about 11 miles north of Bristol. Nearly 500 people filled St Mary’s Church for Rev Suddards’s funeral, which was led by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Rev Michael Perham.

Among the mourners were the Bishop of Colchester and clergy and friends from Suddards’s former parish in Witham, Essex.

Speaking ahead of the service, The Venerable Geoffrey Sidaway, Archdeacon of Gloucester, paid tribute to Suddards. “It’s seven weeks of course since these communities were rocked by the tragic death of their parish priest,” he said. “Today we have brought John back here to the church he loved and served for a funeral Eucharist led by the Bishop of Gloucester.

“There will be friends here from his parish in the Diocese of Chelmsford, from Gloucestershire and further afield. [It’s] A great celebration of John’s life and ministry and of Easter faith and hope.”

The Archdeacon said that since Suddards’s death, the town had come together to support each other.

“There has been some terrific work done here by church and community,” he said.

The Archdeacon added: “John was a lovely man, he was a kind man, a generous man. “There’s a lovely story that he used to light a lamp every night during his ministry to signal to parishioners he was there for them if they needed him. And we now know that made him very vulnerable.”