Priest death is still a mystery

Fr John Cribben

Fr John Cribben

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The death of a parish priest whose body was found below a ladder in his church still remains unsolved four months later.

Fr John Cribben, 76, is believed to have been dusting an arch with a vacuum cleaner when he fell 30 feet. It is thought he lay there all night before a parishioner found him the following morning.

But an investigation into exactly what happened is still continuing and no date has yet been fixed for an inquest.

An internal flat roof above the entrance hall at Our Lady and St Patrick’s RC Church in Walton-le-Dale is still cordoned off as a potential hazard by safety experts from South Ribble Council.

A spokesman for the authority explained: “We have served a prohibition notice on the Diocese of Salford which stipulates a number of things including no-one has to go on that flat roof.

“We postponed our investigation until the police completed theirs. Now they have finished, we have resumed our inquiries.”

It appears Fr Cribben was using a large stepladder on top of the flat roof when he fell down into the main part of the church.

It is believed the roof, which covers a large entrance area and sits in front of the upstairs choir pews and organ, was not intended for standing on.

Days before his death in January the priest told friends he was doing the cleaning work at his church because he felt industrial contractors were too expensive.

A police spokesman said: “We have conducted our enquiries and this was deemed to be a non-suspicious death. A file has been passed to the coroner.”

Fr Cribben had left instructions for a “simple” funeral. But the service, conducted by the Bishop of Salford, brought traffic to a standstill and attracted more than 70 clergy and hundreds of mourners.