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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 19:45 GMT 20:45 UK

UK: Wales

Accused vicar threw himself off cliffs

The cliffs at Little Haven where Canon Peter Edwards was found

An inquest has heard how a Welsh vicar threw himself from a clifftop after he was accused of having sex with a teenaged boy.

BBC Wales's Geraint Vincent reports
The body of Canon Peter Edwards, 51, was found face-down on rocks 100 feet below a scenic coastal path at Little Haven, Pembrokeshire.

He was still wearing his clerical shirt but its collar had been removed.

Indecent material

Three days earlier on 30 April last year, Canon Edwards was charged by Gwent Police with gross indecency with a 15-year-old boy.

In a safe at his vicarage home in St Mary's Church, Caldicot, near Newport, officers found a copy of a gay magazine.

They also found a fantasy story of a sexual relationship between a man and a boy printed from a computer, and further indecent material was stored on his personal computer.

He had been released on bail pending an appearance before magistrates on condition he left the area.

Canon Edwards who had worked all over south Wales and in Scotland, went to stay with his mother in west Wales almost 100 miles away.

[ image: Canon Edwards was vicar at Little Haven for three years]
Canon Edwards was vicar at Little Haven for three years
Police were alerted on May 2 after his blue Renault Clio was found abandoned at Talbenny Church, Little Haven, where he had worked as a vicar from 1978 to 1981.

His body was discovered soon afterwards on rocks below.

PC Geoff Jones told the hearing in Haverfordwest that the charge sheet bearing Canon Edwards' details was found in his car.

On the back of the sheet were several "cryptic and disjointed" notes, including the words, "Phone solicitor. Not G. Fight it."

There was also a Norman prayer book with an extra hand-written prayer on the back page, which included the lines: "Go forth Christian soul, out of this world...may you rest with your redeemer in paradise this day."

Pathologist Dr Stephen Polakis said the vicar died of multiple injuries which were consistent with a fall.

Pembrokeshire Coroner Michael Howells told a jury that their verdict "must rise above any feelings of sympathy".

He added: "He was a well-respected and much-loved parish priest and was thought of very highly.

"He was charged with very serious sexual offences and if proved they would have had very serious consequences for a parish priest."

Family 'disappointed'

The jury returned a verdict of suicide.

Afterwards, members of Canon Edwards's family said they were disappointed with the verdict.

His sister Janie Thomas said her brother was a devout man who looked upon suicide as a sin and would never have contemplated taking his own life.

She said evidence showed he had plans for the future.

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