'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."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence