'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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living