King’s College Dean found dead

Jennifer Mills - Deputy News Editor 1 October 2009

Reverend Ian Thompson, the Dean of King’s College Chapel, was found dead from heart failure brought on by asphyxiation in his home just outside Cambridge on Thursday 24th September.

Revd Thompson was being investigated by the Strathclyde Police for sexual offences allegedly committed some time ago. The cause of death is thought to be suicide. Police say the death is not being treated as suspicious.

Paramedics were called to Mr Thompson’s Great Shelton home on Thursday afternoon following reports of a cardiac arrest. They attempted resuscitation but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office told The Cambridge Student (TCS): “We can confirm that the Procurator Fiscal in Kilmarnock received a report on 4th December 2007 relating to Ian Thompson, in connection with incidents in the 1980s and 90s. He appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, on petition after warrant, on 3rd January 2009 charged with a number of sexual offences. He made no plea or declaration and was released on bail.”

The alleged offences were being investigated in Scotland and are understood to have involved children.

The Rev Ian Thompson, 50, was a prominent figure in university life, serving as Lay Dean and Dean of Chapel for King’s College, Director of Studies for Theology and as a governor of King’s College Chapel School. Before this he was chaplain at both Selwyn and Newnham.

As Dean of King’s College Chapel he appeared on live television and radio broadcast to millions, giving readings at the college’s annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve.

Tim Holt, a spokesperson for the university, told TCS:  “The College can confirm that as soon as these allegations came to light measures were taken to ensure, without prejudice to any future investigation or assumption of guilt, that Ian Thompson was excluded from the premises and management of King’s College School and could not come into un-chaperoned contact with its pupils elsewhere in the college.”

“Once the charges had been made in January 2009, Ian Thompson was placed on leave from work and signed an agreement not to enter the college and remained excluded from the premises and management of King’s College School.”

Mr Thompson was born in Glasgow, studied at Aberdeen University and worked as a cleric with the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney for five years before moving to Cambridge in 1999. He was ordained in 1994 having previously worked as a commanding officer in the Salvation Army. He left a widow, Ann. The couple had no children.

The Provost of King’s College, Ross Harrison, gave a statement saying “The sudden death of our much loved dean leaves the College in a state of shock and he will be much missed by many. With great energy, care, and determination, he supported many groups in College and outside, particularly in connection with rowing.”

Revd Richard Lloyd Morgan, the Chaplain of King’s College, also expressed his sadness at the death. He told TCS: “Ian Thompson’s death came as a devastating and profound shock to all who knew him. He was widely regarded as a man of honour, wisdom and compassion. His loss will leave us immeasurably poorer, but his friendship will have enriched our lives and we can count ourselves fortunate to have known him.”

As well as his work within the religious community of the university, Mr Thompson was Treasurer of Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) and coach of a rowing club based in Chesterton. CUBC said on their website, “Our sympathies are with his wife, Ann, and those close to him. As we all know, Ian has been central to the Cambridge rowing community, and we cannot even start to express our feelings at this loss.”

His wife Ann said in a statement, “He was a wonderful, warm man who gave himself to everyone without sparing himself. He was loved by young and old in all walks of life and that has been demonstrated by the hundreds of cards and messages that have been received.”

The president of King’s College Students’ Union, Anna Richardson, spoke to TCS of the impact of the news on students at King’s. She said: “We were all surprised and saddened to hear the news. I personally knew Ian well and feel we have all lost a wonderful member of our community.”

“Ian was a fantastic friend and mentor to so many students at Kings. He was always upbeat and cheerful and the first to offer academic or pastoral help to anyone who needed it. Above all else, he was a reasonable, kind man and a great advocate for students.”

Jennifer Mills – Deputy News Editor