Vicar murder: Police get more time to question man


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The Independent Online

Police have been given more time to question a man on suspicion of the murder of a vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 47, remains in custody after Avon and Somerset officers were granted a further 36 hours to question him in connection with the deaths of clergyman John Suddards and pensioner Betty Yates.

Farrow was arrested in Folkestone, Kent, yesterday on suspicion of murdering Mr Suddards after police launched a nationwide manhunt.

Mr Suddards, 59, was found stabbed to death at his home in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, last Tuesday.

Farrow was later arrested on suspicion of murdering retired teacher Betty Yates, 77, who was knifed to death at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 2.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokeswoman said: "Police have obtained a further warrant of detention in relation to the 47-year-old man currently in custody.

"This warrant is for an additional 36 hours. This takes us until the early hours of Wednesday morning."

Mr Suddards' body was found by workmen who had arrived at the vicarage next to St Mary's Church in Castle Street.

The news of his death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, 11 miles north of Bristol.

He had taken up his post only last July, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford in Essex.

The former barrister moved to the area after serving at St Nicolas Church in Witham, Essex, since 2001 and before that at Great Yeldham parish, 20 miles away in Essex.

Police seized a white Citroen van at about 11.30pm on Tuesday, just hours after arresting a 43-year-old man over Mr Suddards' death. He was later released on bail.

It is believed a man in his 40s had been sleeping in the van.

News of the 36-hour extension to question Farrow came as parishioners will hold a private candlelight vigil at St Mary's Church tonight to remember Mr Suddards.

Yesterday, the Venerable Geoffrey Sidaway, Archdeacon of Gloucester, said the clergy should continue to open their doors to "people who are distressed and angry" in the wake of Mr Suddards' murder.

"By the nature of the position, clergy are often dealing with people who are distressed and angry, and that can put us in very vulnerable situations," he said.

"The door must stay open - that is the whole point of the job.

"We need to be a church with an open door which is there to welcome and to help everyone."

Mrs Yates was found dead at the bottom of stairs at her home on the banks of the River Severn on January 4, having been killed two days earlier.

West Mercia officers investigating Mrs Yates's killing arrested and questioned a man on February 2 before he was released on bail.

Mrs Yates's son and daughter made an emotional appeal for help to bring their mother's killer to justice.

Hazel Costello, with her brother David Yates, said: "We are completely bewildered as to who could carry out such a savage attack on our mother.

"That this should have happened in her home makes this even more difficult to bear."