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Police questioned over Exeter Church Caretaker's death

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

By Eleanor Gregson

  • Police questioned over Exeter Church Caretaker's death after being taken into custody

  • Rev Georgina Vye

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POLICE officers involved in the arrest of a church caretaker who died after being taken into police custody are to be questioned.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Thomas Orchard, who worked at St Thomas Church in Cowick Street, Exeter.

The 32-year-old was arrested following a disturbance and taken into police custody but died in hospital a week later.

More than 100 mourners turned out to remember Mr Orchard at a memorial service shortly after his death.

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His mother Alison paid tribute to her son and described him as someone who had suffered with mental health problems in the past but who was a "gentle and loving" man.

Police arrested Mr Orchard on suspicion of a public order offence following an incident at the junction of the High Street and Paris Street on Wednesday, October 3.

He was taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital when officers became concerned he was not responding to them while in his cell.

He later died in hospital on Wednesday, October 10, and the IPCC said he suffered "serious head injuries".

Investigators at the police watchdog say their inquiries into the circumstances surrounding Mr Orchard's death were "progressing well".

CCTV footage from the scene has been viewed and several witnesses had been spoken to.

And officers involved in Mr Orchard's arrest are now being interviewed by investigators.

There is no indication as to how long the inquiry will take, but the IPCC says it aims to complete all such investigations within six months.

Police questioned over Exeter Church Caretaker's death after being taken into custody has previously described the 32-year-old as an "excellent footballer and athlete" and an "avid" Manchester United fan, who travelled the county playing for local teams until his mid-teens.

Mr Orchard worked as a caretaker at St Thomas Church, where he was also a valued server.

Rev Georgina Vye, of St Thomas Church, said Thomas was an "increasingly important part of the community" and had a "quiet humour". She described him as a man of few words who was "sincere and hard-working".

A spokesman for the commission said: "The IPCC's investigation is ongoing and progressing well.

"We have met the family of Mr Orchard to update them.

"We have reviewed relevant CCTV footage and a number of witnesses have been spoken to and statements taken.

"We are in the process of carrying out interviews with officers involved in the detention of Mr Orchard."

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