Reverend John Suddards murder: Court hears of accused Stephen Farrow's previous threats to kills

 

A man accused of stabbing a priest and a former primary school teacher to death had previously made threats to kill an elderly woman, a court heard today.

Stephen Farrow, 48, admits the manslaughter of the Rev John Suddards in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies murder, between February 12 and 15.

He also denies killing Mrs Betty Yates, 77, who was found stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 4.

Farrow, of no fixed address, admits burgling another property, Vine Cottage, also in Thornbury, over the Christmas and New Year period that year.

Bristol Crown Court was today told Farrow has a previous conviction for aggravated burglary, dating back nearly two decades.

The jury of eight men and four women were told Farrow pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at an address in Heath Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands in August 1994.

The owner, Stella Crow, had been the victim of a burglary four years earlier in which several items were stolen from one of her lodgers.

The court heard the owner, who was 77 in August 1994 but has since died, opened her front door to a man, "in his 20s", who initially said he was meeting someone at the property. He subsequently followed Ms Crow into the home where he produced a knife with a "12-inch blade".

Edward Burgess, for the prosecution, said the intruder demanded to go into one of the rooms. Ms Crow said she shouted for help, but the man said he knew nobody was at home.

In her statement, parts of which are disputed by the defence counsel, Ms Crow said: "He asked for money and jewellery.

"Then he said that if anyone came in, he would kill me and the dogs. He said: 'I have killed before.'

"He was holding the knife above my head in a stabbing stance," she said.

Michael Fitton QC, also for the prosecution, said forensic evidence, including links to the footwear worn by Farrow at the time of his arrest in February, connected all three cases. Scientific experts are expected to appear before the court next week.

The jury was told Mr Suddards, 59, was killed at his home just weeks after the burglary at nearby Vine Cottage.

The owners returned from holiday to find their home ransacked and a note pinned to the table with two of their kitchen knives which read: "Be thankful you didn't come back or we will have killed you, Christian scum. I f****** hate God."

The court heard there was "strong (forensic) support" that boot markings discovered at the scene matched those recovered from the defendant later upon his arrest in Kent. There was also a suggestion of Farrow's DNA being present on one of the kitchen knives found at Vine Cottage, jurors were told.

It was DNA evidence which linked the defendant to the murder of widow Mrs Yates, who lived at her home, Riverscroft, on the banks of the River Severn, the court heard.

Farrow, who knew Mrs Yates, said he saw her on December 30 and that his DNA must have rubbed on to her hand when they shared a hug. The prosecution said Farrow's DNA would have been removed the first time Mrs Yates washed her hands - something Farrow must be claiming she did not do between her meeting with the defendant and her death on January 2, Mr Fitton said.

Mr Suddards's body was discovered fully clothed on February 14 with stab wounds to the neck and chest, lying on the floor surrounded by "items of a personal nature".

A Bible lay opened against his chest, while a canvas of Christ was positioned near him.

The court heard party poppers were also placed nearby, with Farrow having embarked on a "voyage of discovery" to "arrange the scene" to his wishes. He remained in the vicarageovernight to drink bottled lager and watch DVDs, the prosecution said.

He added the items discovered at the scene were intended to "harm the reputation and memory" of the clergyman.

The jury were told that while Farrow has admitted the manslaughter of Mr Suddards they would have to decide if his "mental disorder" diminished his responsibility for murder, while they would have to decide whether he did kill Mrs Yates, a death in which he denies any involvement.

"The Crown's view is this, he is not insane, he knows the difference between right and wrong, he knows what he is doing and what he did, he did as a matter of choice," Mr Fitton said.

"He was acting voluntarily and consciously and fully aware of his surroundings. He was not killing because he was mad.

"Our case is he killed the Reverend Suddards calmly, decisively and acted that night in a manner which was focused, directed and controlled.

"We say that he is guilty of the murder of Reverend Suddards, as he is guilty of the murder of Betty Yates."

In a written statement to the court today, the owners of Vine Cottage said they felt "threatened" by the note left in their kitchen.

Margaret Pinder and her husband had spent much of the festive season away from home, leaving on December 22 and returning on January 2.

They came back to find their cottage ransacked, with items strewn all over the floor and half-eaten food left abandoned around the house.

Mrs Pinder said of the note, which said the "Christian scum" owners would have been killed if they were at home at the time of the raid, said: "I felt very threatened by the note.

"As a result, I am very worried about walking alone at night. We have increased security."

She said the reference to religion "confused me". Mrs Pinder said neither she nor her husband were church-goers, and there was no religious imagery in the home.

She said there had been a magazine in the toilet with the headline "Is God green?" but it was an ecology publication.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits