Essex/UK: Family of murdered vicar John Suddards call for tighter controls on psychopaths

THE sister of a former Essex clergyman stabbed to death in his hallway has called for tighter controls on dangerous psychopaths.

The Reverend John Suddards was found murdered in his vicarage in Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, on February 14.

Yesterday, at Bristol Crown Court, Stephen Farrow, 48, was found guilty of the murder of Mr Suddards, 59, and sentenced to life in prison.

Mr Suddards had only worked in Thornbury for eight and a half months, having served at St Nicolas’ Church in Witham, since 2001.

The jury heard how on February 13 the vicar let Farrow into his hallway before he was attacked with knives. After he was killed, Farrow placed a copy of the New Testament on his chest along with a picture of a semi-naked male model.

Farrow was also found guilty of the murder of Betty Yates, 77, who he beat and stabbed to death six weeks earlier.

Farrow, who was diagnosed as a psychopath, had denied the murders of the vicar and the widow. He had admitted the clergyman’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and a separate burglary in which he left a note threatening to kill “Christin scum”.Farrow had an obsession with religion – claiming he had been sexually abused at boarding school by a priest – and wanted to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Speaking after the verdict, Mr Suddards’s sister Hilary Bosworth described the outcome as “a just one” but added said: “Do we, as a country, do enough to ensure that psychopaths, with a known history of violence and criminal offences, are not left roaming around at large, ready to attack someone?

“Do we perhaps need to think again about how me might better monitor those people in our communities who present a real risk to society?

“My brother John was a good man, who dedicated his life to serving God and helping other people.

“In the nine months since John died, we have experienced all the grief of losing a loved one, but we have also had to come to terms with the fact that John’s life was taken, in a very violent and totally unprovoked attack, in his own home.” The news of Mr Suddard’s murder sent shockwaves through the Essex community which he had been a part of since 1989. Mr Suddard’s successor at St Nicolas Church, the Reverend Sally Lodge, said she hoped Friday’s verdict would bring some comfort to his family.

“John saw many people for weddings, christenings and he was involved with the local schools so I think the whole of the parish will continue to remember with thanks the work he did here,” she said. “I hope the conclusion of the trial will help his family in the process of their grief.”

Ms Lodge said the church had set up a memorial fund in memory of Mr Suddards with all proceeds going to ordination training at the college where he studied in Bristol.

The Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Revd Christopher Morgan, said: “Now the judgement has been given, it is my hope and prayer that John’s family and friends will be given some space to mourn anew but also to face a fresh future.

“John’s memory and example will continue to be warmly valued by very many of us.”

The former barrister joined St Mary’s church in Gloucestershire in summer 2011, having also served in the Great Yeldham parish close to the Suffolk border.

Farrow, a homeless drifter, was told by the judge that he had committed two “horrific” murders and would never be released.

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