Community mourns tragic death of popular priest

VILLAGERS from Whixley and Green Hammerton are mourning a local curate killed in a road traffic accident last Sunday. Police named the Rev Jill Newham, Anglican priest for Whixley and Green Hammerton, as the passenger victim in a crash that involved two vehicles.

News of her death has been greeted with shock and the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, has expressed his deep sadness at the news. He said: "Jill came to the area from Suffolk last year and yet, in that short time, she has inspired, encouraged and endeared herself both to members of the congregations at Whixley and Green Hammerton and the wider community. Jill had a particular quality of pastoral care and listening which was greatly valued and she will be sadly missed. I extend our deepest condolences to her family and assure them of our prayers."

The accident involving Mrs Newham's blue VW Golf and a blue Rover Metro containing four young women occurred on the B6265 Boroughbridge to Green Hammerton road near the Ouseburn junction. Fire officers had to use cutting equipment to release the passengers. The driver of the Metro suffered serious injuries and her three passengers received minor injuries.

A close colleague, The Vicar and Area Dean of Ripon, the Rev David Wheeler said: "Jill had only been here a year but was so well known. She had made a real impact on village life.

"She had a sense of God's love which she was able to personify and convey. For the Anglican church in this area, Jill was the first woman priest. She won over doubters and showed what a woman in ordained ministry can do. Jill was not only a conscientious colleague but a loyal one. I will miss her loyalty above all."

Mrs Newham, who was 66, and a widow, entered ordained ministry in her 50s and served a curacy at Mersea in the Chelmsford Diocese as well as serving as a non-stipendiary minister in Wigborough, and Bildeston with Wattisham in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. Her present post was as curate of Whixley and Green Hammerton. She leaves two sons, one of whom, the Rev Simon Newham is himself an ordained priest in the Chichester Diocese.

Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident and are appealing for witnesses. If anyone can help they should contact TC 96 Thompson on 01423 505541.