Vicar under police investigation dies after 'setting fire to himself'

A senior vicar has died after allegedly 'setting fire to himself' in his Hampshire rectory.

Rev Martyn Neale, 60, was under police investigation and was found dead on Tuesday in the village of Hawley.

Hawley ArmshousesMartyn Neale was also chair of trustees at Hawley Armhouses, a local charity.

A member of the Church of England's governing general synod, Father Neale was described by colleagues as a 'thoughtful, caring man' and had worked in the parish for 20 years.

His congregation was told two weeks ago he had been suspended by the Diocese of Guildford 'as a consequence of an ongoing police investigation', according to the Mail on Sunday but no details were given.

The diocese said in a statement this weekend: 'We were very sorry to be informed by police late on Tuesday of the death of a man at the Rectory in Hawley, believed to be Father Martyn Neale, who was Rector of Hawley and Vicar of Minley in the Diocese of Guildford. 

'Father Neale had been suspended last week as a consequence of an ongoing police investigation,' a statement confirmed. 

'The Diocese of Guildford is giving pastoral support in the parish, and we are praying for all those who are affected by these tragic events,' it added.

Hampshire Police told Christian Today it was not conducting an investigation. Surrey Police also denied it was investigating but could not reveal which force was doing so.

Father Neale was not married, lived alone and was a member of the traditionalist Anglo-Catholic pressure group, Forward in Faith, which opposes women priests.

Hampshire police have said the death was not being treated as suspicious and a coroner's file was being prepared and inquest expected later this week.