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'Psychopath' homeless drifter obsessed with religion found guilty of murdering vicar and retired teacher

Families ask why drifter with history of violence and mental illness was free to attack loved ones

A psychopathic killer with a loathing for religion was jailed for the rest of his life today for the ritualistic killing of a vicar and the fatal stabbing of a retired teacher six weeks earlier.

Stephen Farrow, 48, a homeless drifter with a history of psychiatric illness, killed the clergyman after a two-month campaign of terror in which he threatened to kill "Christian scum" and murdered 77-year-old Betty Yates inside her Worcestershire home.

Farrow, who said that he had been abused by a priest as a child, became obsessed by religion and claimed that he had first planned to crucify the Rev John Suddards at his vicarage in Thornbury, Gloucestershire.

He stabbed Rev Studdards seven times and then told him to "f***ing die then and hurry up" in the last few minutes as the vicar's life ebbed away, according to an account Farrow gave to a psychiatrist. Farrow then ate food, drank beer and watched an India Jones DVD before he left the vicarage.

Farrow claimed that religion was important to him but he wanted to kill the Archbishop of Canterbury - one of a number of people he had expressed an intention to murder including members of his own family and a prison governor.

He claimed that 2012 would mark the second coming of Christ and sent a text message to a friend on New Year's Eve telling her that the "church will be the first to suffer".

Days later on January 2 he broke into the home of Mrs Yates and hit her with a heavy walking stick, with such force that it splintered, Bristol Crown Court heard. Farrow then arranged the body, put a pillow under her head and then stabbed her four times.

Mr Justice Field said: "To put a knife deep into the body of Betty Yates as she lay helpless on the floor, having arranged her head on the pillow was an act of absolute sadism. You did that because you wanted to."

He went on to kill the vicar six weeks later close to a house that he'd burgled and left a threat pinned to a table by two knives. The householders had been away over Christmas and New Year and the note called them "Christian scum" who should be "thankful" they were away.

Farrow showed no emotion as a jury found him guilty of two counts of murder. He had denied the murders but admitted manslaughter of the vicar on grounds of diminished responsibility.

The families welcomed the verdicts but questioned whether Farrow should have been free to roam the country despite a history of violence and mental illness.

Rev Suddards sister, Hilary Bosworth, said: "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."