'Website vicar' set to quit

A MARRIED vicar who was accused of posting a nude photograph of himself on an internet dating website is quitting his post - despite proclaiming his innocence.

A MARRIED vicar who was accused of posting a nude photograph of himself on an internet dating website is quitting his post - despite proclaiming his innocence.

The rev Bob Locke, 41, insisted yesterdaythat the picture showed his head on another man's body and had been placed on the site by someone else.

He said: "The stuff on the website was nothing to do with me. It was just a joke. My wife saw the nude picture purporting to me and she is pretty adamant that it isn't my body.

"Another picture on the site showed my head on the body of somebody who looked like the singer Peter Andre with a six pack stomach

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"I can assure you that I do not look anything like Peter Andre when I have my clothes off. I have no idea who was responsible for putting the pictures on there."

Mr Locke was suspended from his job last month after a woman parishioner saw the photographs and recognised him as the vicar of 14th century St Mary the Virgin church in the quiet yachting town of Burnham-on-Crouch.

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At the time of his suspension he had been on sick leave for three week suffering from stress.

Former Army chaplain Mr Locke confirmed yesterdaythat he was resigning from his £18,000-a-year post, but declined to discuss his reasons for doing so.

"It is a very delicate situation that I find myself in. I am not really supposed to be talking about it," he said.

The nude picture was on an adult part of a website who pay a subscription.

The website claims to have more than 2,186,000 members worldwide and boasts it is the Biggest Party on Earth. Members are able to view profiles and pictures of other users and send e-mail messages to each other to chat or arrange dates.

Mr Locke added from his vicarage: "I believe this information was placed on the website when I was in hiding and had no access to a computer.

"I have been quite unwell for some time and I am feeling a lot better now. I just want to reiterate that I have achieved quite a lot in the 12 years I have been in full time ministry including my four years at Burnham.

"I have got an immense sense of sadness that I have got to go. I have had numerous letters, cards and visits from people offering support. It has been absolutely amazing.

"Since all this kicked off people have been so lovely and I have had enormous support from the people of Burnham

"Working as a priest in a parish is an incredibly busy task and very pressurised. You are in a place 24/7 and it is like living in a goldfish bowl. It means you have to make sacrifices in your personal life."

Mr Locke who has been married to his wife Anne for 19 years and has a 14-year-old daughter, added: "I have now got find somewhere new to live and get myself a job - but I will not be seeking employment in the Church of England. I have not been offered a church job and I would not accept it if I was.

"I am looking for secular employment. I have done other things in the past and I will be looking in that direction. My main priority is to get well and then I will be moving on to do other things."

His wife said: "There is a lot I would like to say about this at some point - but not at the moment."

An on-going disciplinary investigation into Mr Locke's behaviour conducted by the Archdeacon of Harlow the ven Peter Taylor will discontinue after he signs his deeds of resignation.

The Bishop of Bradwell the Right rev Laurie Green, the deputy bishop of the Chelmsford diocese, revealed Mr Locke's intended resignation in a letter read to worshippers at St Mary the Virgin on Sunday.

Mr Locke was ordained in 1992. He spent three years as a curate at St James' Church, Colchester, before joining the Royal Army Chaplains Department.

He quit his Army chaplain's post in 2000 to become vicar at Burnham.

Last December he hosted a Saturday morning show on community radio station Saint FM for the Bradwell area. The Father Bob Locke Show was billed as "music and interviews with Burnham's own hip vicar".

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