‘Loner’ Charged Over Vicar Murder

The suspect charged last night over the murder of a Welsh vicar was described as a loner permanently dressed in black. Geraint Evans will appear in court this morning charged with murdering the Rev Paul Bennett in the grounds of his own church.

The 23-year-old was arrested on Wednesday minutes after the killing of the popular vicar, who was stabbed in the head and neck. Father Paul’s wife Georgina is said to have witnessed the incident on the steps of the vicarage at St Fagan’s Church, Trecynon, near Aberdare.

Evans lives just 100 yards from the vicarage where Father Paul lived. His flat is overlooking the church. It is understood Father Paul, 59, had answered the door, then moments later his wife heard raised voices. She dashed out and witnessed him being stabbed. Mrs Bennett, 58, tried to protect her husband before calling the emergency services.

The vicar’s elderly father Tom, 84, and mother Anita, 85, were visiting at the time and are also believed to have witnessed the killing.

Police found a weapon on the ground next to the vicar’s body. Evans was arrested shortly after, sitting on a gravestone in the cemetery. He will appear at Aberdare Magistrates’ Court this morning.

Police yesterday sealed off Evans’s flat near the entrance to the church grounds at Maes Rhydwen. Scenes-of-crime officers were also examining the grounds of St Fagan’s Church and the 19th- century stone-built vicarage. Forensic experts were yesterday going through Evans’s flat trying to build up a psychological profile.

Papers, documents and books relating to religious studies were taken away for examination. Locals say Evans had lived in the village for less than a year and was known as ‘a loner’.

His next door neighbour, former miner Peter Quick, 55, said, ‘He is always mooching around the village dressed in dark clothing. He has only lived in the village for 12 months. He didn’t work. He is a loner and doesn’t talk to anyone apart from his mother who visits him regularly.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said, ‘The news of Father Paul’s death has come as an appalling shock. I know something of his devoted and selfless ministry in testing conditions, and I can well understand the depth of grief felt by local people, both church members and others in the community. Father Paul’s family will be especially in our prayers here at Lambeth Palace as they come to terms with this terrible tragedy.’

Village postmaster Martin Keane said, ‘Evans has been living in the flats for just under a year. ‘He’s a quiet sort of guy. There has been a high turnover of people in that block of flats – they will put any old person in there. This is a close-knit community where everyone knows everybody else and it is hard when people move in with a background no one knows.’

A South Wales Police spokeswoman said, ‘We have begun to forensically examine a flat we believe is connected to the incident. The flat is located a short distance from the vicarage where Father Bennett was discovered. Initial examinations reveal that Father Bennett suffered multiple stab wounds.’

A post-mortem examination was carried out by a Home Office pathologist yesterday.

Father Paul’s father Tom was yesterday recovering at home. He said, ‘I’m waiting to be interviewed by the police and I can’t say anything.’ Father Paul’s wife and children were being comforted at the home of churchwarden Peter Godsall where they were described as ‘distraught’.

Detectives yesterday appealed for help from anyone who was in the area between 2pm and 3pm on Wednesday. Detective Superintendent Paul Kemp said, ‘If you were in the area at the time you may have seen something that will help the inquiry – please contact us at the incident room.’

The incident room has been set up at Mountain Ash police station where more than 30 detectives are working on the inquiry. South Wales Police had been granted a further 12 hours to question Evans, but charged him at 5pm.