Essex/UK: Vicar’s killer will die in prison after conviction

A homeless drifter will die in prison after being convicted today of the murders of a former Essex vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 48, was found unanimously guilty of the murder of the Rev John Suddards, 59, and guilty by a majority of 11-1 of the murder of Betty Yates, 77.

Both were viciously attacked in their own homes six weeks apart by Farrow.

Farrow, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were returned, was told by a judge at Bristol Crown Court that he had committed two “horrific” murders and would never be released.

Mr Justice Field told Farrow, who was surrounded by security guards: “Stephen Farrow, you have been found guilty of two horrific murders.

“On January 2 this year you somehow got into Betty Yates’s home in the afternoon or early evening.

“Mrs Yates lived in a remote spot at the banks of the River Severn. She was 77 years old but she led an active life.

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“You struck Mrs Yates from behind with a heavy walking stick, hitting her hard at least twice to the back of the head with the rounded, bulbous handle.

“You hit her with such force that the walking stick splintered.

“I am quite satisfied on the evidence that has been presented that Mrs Yates fell unconscious, hitting her face on the floor.

“You then arranged her body and you put a pillow under her head.

“I am quite sure that having done that, you then inflicted the four stab wounds which you inflicted.

“You left the knife in the fatal wound - the wound that was going to bleed the most profusely.”

The judge continued: “Six weeks later, on February 13, you went to Thornbury, you having been there in the New Year when you broke into the house of Mr and Mrs Pinder who were away on holiday.

“In their house you made yourself at home and you left with items of jewellery and a radio.

“You left a note pinned with two knives to the kitchen table which spoke of ‘Christian scum’ and how you ‘hated God’.

“At the vicarage on February 13 Rev Suddards let you in and in his hallway you attacked him with knives.

“He tried to defend himself by using his hands. On your account to Dr Rogers, when the reverend tried to get back up, you kicked him back to the floor.

“Dr Rogers thought your account was genuine and the injuries on the reverend are consistent with him having a blow, such as a kick, to the eye area.

“The reverend told you he was dying and you replied ‘f****** die then and hurry up’ and you watched him die as life seeped away over the next three minutes.

“You then ransacked the vicarage and then placed a number of highly personal items on or around the reverend.

“I am quite sure you did that to humiliate the reverend and to desecrate his memory. I am quite satisfied you intended to humiliate his family in the course of doing that.

“You carefully set a scene. You then ate food, drank beer and watched two DVDs.

“You didn’t leave the house until early the next morning.”

Rev Suddards had been a clergyman in Witham. A former barrister, he moved to St Mary’s Church last summer after serving at St Nicolas Church in Witham, since 2001 and before that at Great Yeldham parish close to the Suffolk border.