THE head verger of Blackburn Cathedral suffered head injuries, two broken ribs and a fractured elbow in a frenzied unprovoked attack.

Mark Pickering, described as a ‘star of the cathedral’ needed surgery after being punched, stamped on and hit repeatedly with a large church candle.


Just after 2pm, Mr Pickering was standing in the cathedral, by the nave, when a man walked up to him and launched the assault.

The 36-year-old was punched to the face, causing him to fall over, before he was kicked and stamped on.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The attacker then grabbed a church candle and hit him several times before he was disturbed and fled the scene.

Other members of staff rushed to help Mr Pickering. The police were called and an ambulance summonsed.

The victim was taken to the A&E department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, where he had surgery on his arm yesterday.

The Very Rev Christopher Armstrong, Dean of the Cathedral, said everybody had been left shocked by the incident The Dean said: “This was an unprovoked attack on one of the cathedral staff.

“Mr Pickering was just making polite conversation when the attack happened.

“It is a huge shock to us all. This sort of level of attack happens very rarely, but it is the worst I have known for 14 years.”

Mr Pickering, who is married with a young family, had been carrying out his duties at the Dean’s verger, which include welcoming people into the cathedral, when the attack happened on Monday (Jan 5).

The victim was on his own at the time, although other members of the cathedral staff were working in the building at the time, the Dean said.

He said: “Our vergers are very skilled at making people feel welcome.

“The cathedral is open during extended officer hours and this was a member of the public who made an unprovoked attack.

“Mr Pickering is very experienced. He is the Dean’s verger and he is head of the department.

“He is the most placid and caring person you can imagine.

“He is one of the stars of the cathedral staff and he is widely acknowledged as a brilliant carer and reconciliator, not only by the cathedral staff, but also members of the public who deal with him.”

The Dean, who provided pastoral support to Mr Pickering at the A&E department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, said he was now hoping he would have a speedy recovery.

He said: “It is not only justice he needs, but care. He is not very well and is having some surgery.”

The Bishop of Blackburn, The Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said: “I was concerned to hear about what happened to the Cathedral verger, Mark Pickering.

“I have contacted the Dean today and Mark is in all of our prayers as he recovers from his injuries.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “This is a terrible thing for Mr Pickering who has been at the cathedral for a long time.

“He has been a loyal servant to the cathedral for so many years.”

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said an investigation was underway and that a 24-year-old man was being questioned by officers.

She appealed for anybody with information about the attack to come forward.

The spokeswoman said: “The cathedral office called us saying the head verger had been assaulted in the main cathedral by the nave.

“He suffered serious injuries to his head and face.

“The aggrieved was punched to the face, causing him to fall to the floor. The offender then kicked him, punched him and stamped on him.

“He then struck him several time with a large church candle.

“The offender was disturbed and that is when he ran off.

“This was a nasty assault and we are investigating. We would appeal for anybody with information to report it to police.”

A spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service said it was called to the scene by officers.

He said: “We attended to a patient who had a potential head injury.”

A 24-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault and sectioned after assessment by the mental health team.

Anybody with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.