THE Christian community and neighbours are mourning Trowbridge bishop Tony Palmer, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on Sunday.

The father-of-two, who grew up in South Africa, founded the evangelical Ark Community in 2002 and was a friend of the Pope.

He died in Southmead Hospital, Bristol, after his motorbike was involved in a head-on collision at about 6.50am with an Audi near Chelwood, south of Bristol.

The 31-year-old driver of the car was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving, and has been released on police bail, pending further enquiries.

A strong advocate of church unity, Mr Palmer had worked closely alongside other denominations.

The Rev Allan Coutts, of St Thomas’ Church, Trowbridge, said: “His death has been a great shock to us. We thought extremely highly of Tony, and believed he was doing wonderful work, and I hope and pray that work will continue following his death.

“He would travel all over the world, and worked closely with the Roman Catholic Church. I believe he knew the Pope when he was a cardinal or archbishop, and had quite regular meetings with him.

“Our thoughts and prayers are very much with his wife and family.”

Fellow residents of Hornbeam Road, where Mr Palmer lived with his wife and two children, paid tribute to a popular neighbour.

John Silk said: “I think he is going to be a great loss. He was clever, and a very good man, and obviously will be greatly missed.”

Neighbour Christine Fletcher said: “Everyone is devastated. He was the most wonderful person, it’s a tragedy. He had so much to give.”

An inquest into Mr Palmer’s death is due to open on Wednesday.