Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Sex abuse accused vicar 'burnt himself to death' at Hawley vicarage

Father Martyn Neale Image copyright Diocese of Guildford
Image caption Father Martyn Neale's remains were found in the garden of his vicarage in Hawley

A Church of England vicar doused himself in petrol and burned to death after being questioned by police over allegations of historical sexual abuse, an inquest has heard.

The remains of Father Martyn Neale were found in the garden of his vicarage in Hawley, Hampshire, in July.

He had to be identified by his dental records because of his injuries, the inquest was told.

Coroner Andrew Bradley recorded a verdict of death by incineration.

'Saw a petrol can'

Father Neale's sister Janis Chandler found his remains in the vicarage next to Holy Trinity Church after he failed to collect his parents for a planned day out.

She told the Basingstoke inquest on Monday: "I noticed the back door was unlocked, I went into the garden, as I turned right I saw a petrol can and walked further into the garden and saw something on the ground which was burned, I wasn't sure at first, as I got nearer I realised it was a body."

Paying tribute to her brother, who worked under the Diocese of Guildford, she added: "He would help anyone."

Det Con Matt Deery, of Hampshire Police, told the inquest Father Neale had been arrested on 17 July by the Metropolitan Police and questioned over allegations of historical sexual abuse more than 20 years ago but was then released without charge.

'Tortured soul'

Regarding his death he said: "There were no indications that there had been forced entry to the building or any disturbance to the house or third party involvement of any sort."

On recording the verdict Mr Bradley said Father Neale's death came "against the background of allegations of historical sexual abuse" and described him as "a tortured soul".

"Whether the allegations are true or false is not a matter for me, they are matters for elsewhere," he added.

"They have been made and they clearly weigh on him considerably."

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