No bail sought for man accused of murdering vicar and retired teacher


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The Independent Online

The man accused of the murders of vicar John Suddards and retired teacher Betty Yates made his first appearance before a High Court judge today.

Stephen Farrow, 47, appeared before Mr Justice Keith at Bristol Crown Court for a five-minute bail application hearing after facing North Avon Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Farrow, of no fixed address, is accused of the murder of Mr Suddards between February 13 and 15 and the murder of Mrs Yates between January 1 and 5.

He also faces a charge of burglary relating to a separate property in Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, between December 21 and January 3.

Farrow, who was appearing via video-link from HMP Bristol, spoke only to confirm his name and that he could hear the court proceedings.

Prosecutor Sian Sullivan told the judge that a preliminary hearing had been fixed for March 9 and a plea and case management hearing was to take place on June 1.

Hannah Uglow, defending, confirmed she was happy with the timetable and said that Farrow would not be making a bail application.

Mr Justice Keith told Farrow: "Mr Farrow you are going to be remanded into custody.

"There will be a hearing on March 9 and the plea and case management hearing will be on June 1."

Farrow was arrested in Folkestone, Kent, last Sunday following 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 also stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 2.

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

The news of his death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, about 11 miles north of Bristol.

He had only taken up his post last July, 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.

Police seized a white Citroen van at about 11.30pm on Tuesday, hours after arresting a 43-year-old man over Mr Suddards' death. He was later released on bail.

It is believed a man in his 40s had been sleeping in the van.

Mrs Yates was found dead at the bottom of the stairs at her home on the banks of the River Severn on January 4, having been killed two days earlier.

Yesterday, the body of a young man was found at the house in Folkestone where Farrow was arrested.

Police said his death was being treated as non-suspicious and a post-mortem examination will be carried out.

The young male found dead yesterday at the house in Folkestone where Farrow was arrested was 16-year-old Keegan Wilkes, sources have confirmed.

A Kent Police spokeswoman said a post-mortem examination will be carried out next week but formal identification has not yet taken place.

A source said his death is still being treated as possibly drugs-related and is not being linked to the Farrow case.