A priest, who was charged with rape and murder of a baby, walked free from court after all charges were mysteriously dropped.Father Percival smiled after being told there would be “no charge” for the rape or murder charges, but said that the ordeal had “ruined his life” after he had been forced to take an early retirement package from the church as “punishment.”
The “highly respected” clergyman originally charged with killing his secret daughter’s baby and then attempting to cover up the birth of the child.Percival, 65, and the baby’s mother Ruth, 29, were both arrested in November 2014 after detectives received a tip-off of an unreported stillbirth at the Holy Trinity Church, in Freckleton, Lancashire, UK.
At the time of his arrest, the priest was also already being investigated for historic rape allegations.Shortly afterward, Lancashire Police mysteriously dropped historic allegations of rape against the respected clergyman.Then in January, Rev Percival and the baby’s mother were told the baby murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child investigations had also been dropped.
Now, after a brief meeting with a judge in the courthouse, they were told the complete investigation was now closed after officers dropped any claims of child neglect against them.Rev Percival smiled briefly as he left the court after he was told in person about the case being closed and police bail was lifted.But he said that the ordeal had “ruined his life” after the church pushed him into early retirement to “punish” him.
One spokesperson said:
“He feels he has been vilified over this.
“He has waited months to be told he is a free man.
“His Bishop has been very supportive of him.”
According to the Dail Mail, Father Percival was a priest at the village’s Holy Trinity Church for ten years having previously worked at churches in Preston and Blackburn.He was previously a carpenter in Putney, London until he joined the priesthood in 2003.He and office cleaner Ruth were first arrested in November 2014 after the police were alerted to a stillbirth at the vicarage.
During the week which followed the birth, he disappeared for a few days bizarrely leaving details for his own funeral.Prayers were said for the family after the initial arrests, with friends and stand-in priest Father Scholz stressing it was wrong to “jump to conclusions”.
He added at the time:
“The congregation are all nice people and, like any family going through difficult times, they will pull together.”
The village ran amok with rumours about Percival’s disappearance but he returned for the Christmas lights switch on and police quickly did a finger tip search of the church.
Villagers had not known he had a daughter who was pregnant and her father initially said she had been taken seriously ill.
One 87 year old parishioner said:
“It’s very, very sad. I sat behind Ruth every week at church and never realized she was pregnant.”
Lancashire Police issued a statement confirming the whole matter was now closed.
The force said:
“A 66-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman from Freckleton have today been told they will face no further action following the death of a baby boy.
“The pair were re-arrested in January and questioned on suspicion of child neglect.
“They both answered bail today and, following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, have been told they will face no charges.
“Both the man and the woman had been previously arrested on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.
“They were also released no further action in respect of those offenses in January.”
Although not mentioned in their statement, a force spokesman said the historic rape allegation has previously also been dropped.
Detective Supt Sue Clarke, who led the investigation, said:
“We have worked very closely with the Crown Prosecution Service from the very early stages.
“It was an extremely complex and sensitive inquiry, which was led by our Force Major Investigation Team, and we respect the decision they have made not to bring any charges.
“While we recognise the impact that such investigations can have on all those concerned, we are clearly duty bound to thoroughly investigate incidents such as the death of this baby boy.
“We would like to stress that those arrested as part of our inquiries have been dealt with professionally and sensitively throughout.”