Historic sex offence allegations 'clearly weighed on' vicar who incinerated himself

The coroner in the case of a Church of England vicar who incinerated himself while being investigated for historic sex offences has said that the allegations 'clearly weighed on him' regardless of whether or not they were true.

Martyn Neale, 60, was found dead at his rectory in the village of Hawley, Hampshire, by his sister Janis Chandler on July 25 – eight days after he was initially arrested by the Metropolitan Police regarding offences allegedly committed 20 years ago.

Geograph/Brendan and Ruth McCartneyHawley Church, where Rev Martyn Neale was rector.

The North East Hampshire Coroner, Andrew Bradley, yesterday told the inquest at Basingstoke Coroner's Court: 'I do not and cannot look at these other than as allegations made. The relevance of them is that they have been made.'

Bradley, who recorded a conclusion of suicide, said that Neale died as a result of 'extensive third degree burns'.

He added of the context of Neale's death: 'Whether the allegations are true or false is not a matter for me, but they have been made and they clearly weighed on him...He was under investigation for historic sexual offences. I merely note this as a relevant factor. The verdict I enter is that he killed himself.

'Please accept my sympathy. It is a matter of such sadness. As much as one may sensationalise it, this is a personal loss.'

Previously, the inquest heard how Chandler had arranged the previous evening for Neale to pick her up so that they could spend the day with their parents, the Daily Mail reported.

After trying to contact him during the day, she went to find her brother at Hawley Vicarage at around 4pm.

She said: 'I have a key, so I let myself in after getting no answer on the doorbell.

'I went in. He wasn't there so I had a look around. His cars were parked outside. I noticed that the back door was unlocked as the chain was dangling.

'I went into the garden and, as I turned right, I saw the petrol can.

'I walked further and I just saw something on the ground that was burned. I was not sure at first, but I realised it was a body when I got nearer.

'I could see it was a body because there was a face and it was face down.'

Chandler contacted the police who attended the scene.

She said that her brother would 'help anyone' and that they were 'a very close family', who saw each other nearly every day.

Friends described Neale as a 'quietly-spoken but caring' priest who had worked for 20 years as the vicar for Hawley, in the Diocese of Guildford.

Neale became a member of the Church of England's equivalent to a 'parliament', the General Synod, earlier this year. According to the Daily Mail, he was a 'prominent traditionalist' who was a council member of the group Forward in Faith, which opposes women priests.

Detective Constable Matt Deery, of Basingstoke CID, told the inquest that Neale was arrested and interviewed on July 17 in connection with historic sexual offences.