Minister's tragic goodbye to son

A CHURCH minister facing an indecent assault allegation killed himself while his teenage son watched in horror, an inquest has heard.Reverend John Pugh, a minister of the United Reformed Church in Stowmarket, told his 18-year-son Barnabas how much he loved him moments before igniting a mixture of gas and fuel in his wife's car – causing it to burst into flames as he sat in the driver's seat.

A CHURCH minister facing an indecent assault allegation killed himself while his teenage son watched in horror, an inquest has heard.

Reverend John Pugh, a minister of the United Reformed Church in Stowmarket, told his 18-year-son Barnabas how much he loved him moments before igniting a mixture of gas and fuel in his wife's car – causing it to burst into flames as he sat in the driver's seat.

The inquest heard Rev Pugh had repeatedly told his son "I love you more than anything else, I'm so proud of you" before the teenager watched the tragedy unfold.

Just days before his suicide, Rev Pugh, 54, of Temple Road, Stowmarket, was arrested amid allegations he indecently assaulted a boy in his early teens in the late 1980s.


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His wife, Diana, told the inquest yesterday her husband's mind had been disturbed by the allegations, which he vehemently denied.

She said: "He was devastated by the events of the few days immediately before his death, his despair and bewilderment were tangible.

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"The question of his good name and reputation was more than he could bear. The balance of John's mind became disturbed and he felt compelled to act in a manner that was so totally out of character, none of his family, friends or colleagues who saw him had any inkling of his intentions."

Mrs Pugh and her son both described Rev Pugh as being calm in the hours before his death on June 3.

Through a written statement, Det Sgt John Brocklebank said: "Barnabas saw his father move the car to the opposite side of the road. Rev Pugh sat looking down at the passenger side and Barnabas saw his father doing something and knew instantly something was wrong.

"He then saw the explosion and vehicle on fire and ran out into the street with neighbours attempting to stop the fire.

"He smashed the driver's window and attempted to rescue his father but was beaten back by the flames."

The teenager was taken to West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, with minor burns to his arm.

Assistant Divisional Officer Carl Francis, of Suffolk Fire Service, said an investigation into Rev Pugh's death had been carried out and the most likely cause of the fire was deliberate ignition of a fuel and gas vapour mix.

In a prepared statement, Mrs Pugh said: "Reverend John Pugh was a devoted husband and father and a faithful minister.

"No finer tribute could have been made to John than by the nigh on 1,000 people who attended his funeral and donated £4,000 to the United Reformed Church Stowmarket in his memory.

"John lived life on a wide canvas. He is sorely missed by the church, the Boy's Brigade, in education, in the community of Stowmarket and its environs but, most of all, by his faithful friends and family whose lives remain irreparably scarred by this unnecessary tragedy.

"They would now ask that their privacy be respected as they continue to grieve."

Pathologist Dr Rodgers said the medical cause of death was through burns and Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean added: "Rev Pugh fully understood the consequences of his actions but I think it is important to recognise that the balance of his mind had clearly been affected and was disturbed by matters taking place."

Dr Dean recorded a verdict of suicide but said a contributory factor was the fact that the balance of Rev Pugh's mind was disturbed.

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