Man denies murder of vicar and retired teacher


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The Independent Online

A man today denied the murders of a vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 47, pleaded not guilty to murdering Rev John Suddards between February 12 and 15 and Betty Yates between January 1 and 5 during a brief hearing at Bristol Crown Court.

But Farrow, of no fixed address, did admit the unconnected charge of burgling Vine Cottage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire between December 21 last year and January 3 this year.

The defendant entered his pleas via videolink from Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire.

Balding Farrow, who was wearing a grey sweatshirt, sat behind a table with his arms folded during the 25 minute hearing.

He spoke only to confirm his identity, that he could hear proceedings and to also enter his pleas to the three charges he faces.

Farrow faces trial before Mr Justice Field beginning on October 8 at Bristol Crown Court, today's hearing heard.

Judge Neil Ford QC, The Recorder of Bristol, remanded Farrow into custody until his trial.

He told the defendant: "That's the end of this administrative hearing. The trial will start on October 8."

Farrow was arrested in Folkestone, Kent in February thanks to a tip-off from the public after Avon and Somerset Police launched a nationwide manhunt.

Mr Suddards, 59, was found stabbed to death at his home in Thornbury on February 14, while Mrs Yates, 77, was stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire on January 2.

Mr Suddards's body was found by workers who had arrived at the vicarage next to St Mary's Church in Castle Street.

He had only taken up his post in July last year, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford in Essex. The former barrister moved to the area after serving at St Nicolas Church in Witham, Essex since 2001 and before that at Great Yeldham parish, 20 miles away.

Mrs Yates was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at her home on the banks of the River Severn on January 4.