Lancashire vicar arrest rocks village

Search: Police searching the house of Reverend Jim Percival,
Search: Police searching the house of Reverend Jim Percival,
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A community is in shock after a vicar and his daughter were arrested in a murder probe following the death of a newborn baby.

Reverend Jim Percival, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Lytham Road, Freckleton and his 28-year-old daughter Ruth spent all day yesterday being quizzed by police in Blackpool on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

Mr Percival’s wife Susan, 65, was also questioned on suspicion of attempting to conceal the birth of the child.

Today, neighbours spoke of their disbelief and many added they were praying for those involved.

One resident said: “It’s all a bit of a shock. They are a quiet family. We only know them to say hello. I didn’t even know the daughter was pregnant.”

Another resident said: “It’s saddening for everyone and everyone is in shock. It’s a sad affair but the police inquiry will take its course.”

Nobody has yet been charged with an offence and Reverend Terry Scholz, who is also based at the Holy Trinity Church, led prayers for the family at the church yesterday.

Mr Scholz said the family are upset by the accusations and called on residents in the village to pray for the them, urging people not to “jump to conclusions.”

He said: “We must pray that we keep our faith and pray for the family. They are all nice people and, like any family going through difficult times, they will pull together.

“God will be with our church family in the wilderness.”

Police yesterday continued searching the Percival family home, on Sunnyside Close in Freckleton. A force spokesman would not be drawn on the nature of the forensic team’s work.

An ambulance had first been called to the home last 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.

On Tuesday night the three family members were arrested.

The 64-year-old vicar and his daughter were also arrested on suspicion of sexual offences but police have since dropped that line of enquiry.