31/03/2012 11:25 BST | Updated 31/05/2012 06:12 BST

Rev John Suddards: Mourners Pay Last Respects To Murdered Vicar

Hundreds of people paid their last respects to clergyman Reverend John Suddards, 59, found stabbed to death in the hallway of his home.

Reverend John Suddards, discovered dead in his vicarage on St Valentine's Day, was given a last goodbye in the church where he was installed as priest only eight-and-a-half months ago.

The news of his death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, about 11 miles north of Bristol.

Nearly 500 people filled St Mary's Church for Mr Suddards's funeral, which was led by the Bishop of Gloucester, the Right Rev Michael Perham.

St. Mary's Church at the time of the investigation

Among the mourners were the Bishop of Colchester and clergy and friends from Mr Suddards's former parish in Witham, Essex.

Speaking ahead of the service, The Venerable Geoffrey Sidaway, Archdeacon of Gloucester, paid tribute to Mr Suddards.

"It's seven weeks of course since these communities were rocked by the tragic death of their parish priest," he said.

"Today we have brought John back here to the church he loved and served for a funeral Eucharist led by the Bishop of Gloucester.

"There will be friends here from his parish in the Diocese of Chelmsford, from Gloucestershire and further afield.

"A great celebration of John's life and Ministry and of Easter faith and hope."

The Archdeacon said that since Mr Suddards's death, the town had come together to support each other.

"There has been some terrific work done here by church and community both with individuals and the community itself," he said.

"Then of course this service today and in about three weeks time the vicarage, up to this point has been a crime scene, will be having a service of prayer and blessing to open up the vicarage again.

"Hopefully in the summer we'll move to appoint a new priest to Thornbury."

The Archdeacon paid tribute to Mr Suddards and added: "John was a lovely man, he was a kind man, a generous man.

"There's a lovely story that he used to light a lamp every night during his Ministry to signal to parishioners he was there for them if they needed him.

"And we now know that made him very vulnerable.

"He was also a very gifted man, a very able man and had a great sense of humour."

Mourners sang the hymns I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended and Thine Be The Glory, Risen, Conquering Son, and received Holy Communion.

Mr Suddards had only taken up his post last July, having come from the Diocese of Chelmsford in Essex.

The former barrister moved to the area after serving at St Nicolas Church in Witham, since 2001 and before that at Great Yeldham parish, 20 miles away.

Stephen Farrow, 47, has been charged with the murder of Mr Suddards and also that of retired teacher Betty Yates, 77, in Bewdley, Worcestershire.

Farrow was arrested on February 19 in Folkestone, Kent, following a tip-off from the public after police launched a nationwide manhunt.

Mrs Yates was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at her home on the banks of the River Severn on January 4, having been killed two days earlier.