'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
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future