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A Newcastle priest killed himself four days after being told of a police investigation UK News

A Catholic priest killed himself four days after police told him they were investigating a historic allegation against him, an inquest has heard.

Canon Michael McCoy, who was a priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Newcastle, was visited by officers on April 6 last year.

They told him that an “unrecent allegation” had been made against him and that the matter should be investigated. At this stage, the complainant had yet to provide a full account to Northumbria Police.

Read more:Mum asked for a mental health appointment days before a teenager killed a grandmother in a Sunderland shop

ChronicleLive revealed last year that prior to Canon McCoy’s death, he was under police investigation following allegations of child sexual abuse. It is understood the police investigation was only in its early stages when Canon McCoy was found dead at a property in Newcastle.

Northumbria Police confirmed at the time that Canon McCoy had not been questioned or arrested by officers in relation to the alleged abuse.

Newcastle Coroner’s Court heard on Thursday May 5 that Canon McCoy had been told he would be invited for a voluntary interview in due course. However, on April 10, the 57-year-old was found hanged in a flat in City Road, Newcastle.

A toxicology report revealed alcohol in his system, which was one and a half times the legal drinking limit, as well as “exceeding therapeutic levels” of prescribed medications.

However, a pathologist said these did not cause or contribute to his death and would not have impaired his ability to make decisions. It was also said that Canon McCoy had a history of anxiety disorder, but no history of self-harm.

The inquest heard that after being made aware of the historic allegation, Northumbria Police and a Diocesan safeguard representative carried out risk assessments, which found no indication of self-harm and found that he had the support of his family and friends.

Detective Sergeant Julie Beattie explained that police received a report into the allegation on April 3 last year. The next day, the complainant was contacted and a brief update was obtained.

Officers then visited Canon McCoy at the church on April 6 and informed him of the allegations against him. Detective Sergeant Beattie said Canon McCoy was upset but expressed no concern for himself and said he had the support of friends. There was no concern for his physical or mental well-being.

“It was explained that this was a not recent allegation,” Detective Sergeant Beattie said. “The Complainant had not yet provided a full story. At some point in the future, he would be invited for a voluntary interview. He would not be arrested, it was on a voluntary basis.”

Angela Richardson, who was safeguarding co-ordinator at the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, told the inquest she had been in contact with Canon McCoy in the days following the police visit, explaining protocols and procedures and carrying out a risk assessment.

They also talked about alternative accommodation. Cannon McCoy had moved into an Airbnb apartment but wanted to find alternative accommodations and was investigating other properties, according to the inquest.

There were options to go to a hotel or go to the cathedral in the meantime, but he preferred to stay at the Airbnb at the time, Ms Richardson said.

After his death, an investigation was conducted to ensure that the actions of the diocese were in accordance with policies and protocols. She concluded that the actions taken were consistent with both.

Coroner Karen Dilks concluded that Canon McCoy committed suicide and issued a decision of suicide.

She said: “On a balance of probabilities, my conclusion is that Michael McCoy intentionally hanged himself.”

Prior to taking up his post at St Mary’s, Canon McCoy was a priest in parishes in Sunderland including St Anne’s in Pennywell, St Joseph’s in Millfield and St Benet’s in Monkwearmouth.

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