Former Feock vicar found dead on Dorset beach

Rev Bob Thorn

Rev Bob Thorn

First published in News
Last updated

The body found on a beach in West Dorset has been identified as former Feock vicar Bob Thorn.

It is believed that Rev Thorn, who was married with children, got into difficulties whilst rowing off the coast. His body was found washed up in Seatown yesterday.

The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, said: “I was devastated to learn of the death of the Revd Bob Thorn, Rector of the Bride Valley Benefice, in a rowing accident yesterday.

“Bob was a remarkable man of incredible determination. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jean, who is also a priest and with whom he shared much of his ministry, and with his children.”

Locals paid tribute to the popular vicar who was also a talented guitarist and songwriter.

Bridport Rector the Rev Andrew Evans said: "Obviously when the news came it was devastating. We are all very sorry both for him and for his wife Jean.

"He died doing something that he passionately wanted to do but of course the outcome of it has been such a tragedy both for him and for Burton Bradstock.

"He was a larger than life character, a hugely spiritual man.

"He was hugely respected and well liked. Our thoughts and prayers go to Jean and to his mum and the wider family."

Councillor Ron Coatsworth said: "He was obviously an important person and I am sure we will all regret his passing.

"It will be a great shock to the village. People like that do have an effect on the life of the village."

Former parish council chairman Mike Southgate said: "He was a very straightforward person and down to earth, warm person.

 "He was a deep thinking man and had clear views on social welfare.

"Everybody will be thoroughly shocked. He was a man very much for the people."

Burton Bradstock Hive Beach Café owner Steve Attrill said: "The church is in the heart of the community and I am just shocked.

"He did quite a few different things with the school."

Village correspondent for the Bride Valley News Ian Wigglesworth said: "It's obviously a great shock. He will be sorely missed."

The last time he wrote for the Bride Valley News in March he said: "I do ask for your prayers, please, for the fortitude of God being with me, to be strong and of good courage."

Portland Coastguard received reports of a rowing boat that had been washed ashore on Seatown Beach which sparked a large scale multi-agency search was launched by Portland Coastguard.

Coastguard teams from West Bay, Lyme Regis, Exmouth and Beer and all were tasked with carrying out a shoreline search of their areas.

The RNLI lifeboat from Lyme Regis, both RNLI lifeboats from Exmouth and the Independent lifeboat from Sidmouth were also launched and the Portland rescue helicopter was also scrambled.

After hours of searching, the Rev Thorn's body was discovered by West Bay officers in East Ebb Cove at the base of the cliffs below Thorncombe Beacon.

A spokesman for the team said: "Due to the difficult terrain and location, rescue helicopter 106 assisted with the recovery of the deceased and all teams were then stood down to return to station.

"Our thoughts are with the persons family and friends at this most difficult time."

The news of the death of the 'larger-than-life' vicar was greeted with shock. The vicar was on a three-month sabbatical and planned a retreat in Cornwall.

Former parish council chairman Mike Southgate said: "He was a very straightforward person and down to earth, warm person.

"He was a deep thinking man and had clear views on social welfare.

"Everybody will be thoroughly shocked. He was a man very much for the people."

The Salisbury Diocese refused to comment or allow church members to do so.

Police said yesterday that the body was found after an empty boat was reported washed up on the beach.

Concerns for the occupant prompted an extensive search of the area and led to a man’s body being found nearby.

It is understood the search operation went on for several hours.

Seatown is a hamlet on the Jurassic Coast less than a mile from the village of Chideock.

The beach lies beneath the beauty spot of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.

Local residents said they saw or heard emergency services vehicles in the area yesterday, including a coastguard unit with sirens on rushing down Sea Hill Lane.

George ‘Nobby’ Clark, who has a holiday home in the area, said he saw two police vehicles at Seatown.

He added that he had seen coastguards in the area before involved in incidents on the coast.

Mr Clark said: “There are things you will see like helicopters flying around particularly with the rough seas.

“Someone’s always in trouble.”

Chief Inspector Dean O’Connor of Dorset Police said: “At approximately 9am on Monday an unoccupied small boat was located on the beach in the Seatown area.

“Police and coastguard units conducted a search of the nearby coast which located a 59-year-old local man who was deceased.

“The next of kin have been updated. There are no suspicious circumstances relating to the death.

“Dorset Police are conducting inquiries on behalf of HM Coroner.”

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