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Vicar who is being investigated for sexual abuse dies after setting himself on fire

(Pixabay/bpcraddock)A vicar reportedly used a can of petrol to incinerate himself after he was arrested on suspicion of committing historical sex offenses 20 years ago.

An inquest has confirmed that a Church of England vicar, who is being investigated for historic sex offenses, has died after incinerating himself with a can of petrol.

The Rev. Martyn Neale, 60, was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in July regarding historic sexual offenses that were allegedly committed 20 years ago.

On July 25, just eight days after his arrest, Neale's body was found by his sister, Janis Chandler, in the garden of his vicarage in the village of Hawley, Hampshire.

Chandler went into the vicarage that day after Neale failed to turn up to take her and their parents out for a day trip.

She told the Basingstoke inquest that she left herself into the vicarage after finding the back door unlocked. She then went into the back garden where she found a petrol can and a badly charred body, according to Premier.

"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," she said. "As I got nearer I could tell it was a body because there was a face, it was face down," she added.

Chandler explained she was aware that allegations have been made against her brother and that he had been suspended by the church, but she did not know the nature of the claims.

She said that her brother would "help anyone," adding that they were "a very close family," seeing each other almost daily.

Detective Constable Matt Deery, of Basingstoke CID, confirmed that Neale was arrested and interviewed on July 17 in connection with the historical sex offenses. He said that the vicar had been released without charge on unconditional bail after the interview, but he indicated that the investigation is still underway.

North East Hampshire Coroner Andrew Bradley concluded that Neale had committed suicide and died as a result of extensive third-degree burns.

"I do not and cannot look at these other than as allegations made. The relevance of them is that they have been made," he said.

"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 added.

Neale, who became a member of the General Synod earlier this year, had been described by his friends as a "quietly-spoken but caring" priest who had worked as the vicar for Hawley, in the Diocese of Guildford, for 20 years.

The vicar was said to be a prominent traditionalist and was a council member of the group Forward in Faith, which opposes female priests.

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