David Venables: Farmer guilty of murdering wife and hiding body in septic tank for decades

Retired pig farmer convicted of 1982 murder of his wife, whose body was found in septic tank 37 years later

Chiara Giordano
Friday 15 July 2022 16:25 BST
<p>Pig farmer David Venables</p>

Pig farmer David Venables

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A retired pig farmer has been found guilty of the 1982 murder of his wife, whose body was found hidden in a septic tank 37 years later.

David Venables, 89, tried to blame serial killer Fred West for Brenda Venables’s murder, but was convicted by a 10-2 majority verdict on Friday.

During the month-long trial, the pensioner’s legal team claimed Mrs Venables may have left her marital home at Quaking House Farm and “either killed herself or met with or encountered someone who wished her harm.”

But the jury of seven women and five men deliberated for almost 17 hours over four days before convicting Venables of murdering his wife on either May 3 or May 4 1982.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Michael Burrows QC said Venables had “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years after dumping his wife in the septic tank.

The remains of Ms Venables, 48, were found in the underground cesspit at their former marital home in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in 2019.

Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, had denied murdering his wife. He previously told Worcester Crown Court that he searched for his spouse after he awoke to find her missing on 4 May 1982, reporting the disappearance to police later that afternoon.

Venables said it was a “complete mystery” where his wife had gone and told jurors he never mentioned the septic tank to police search teams as it “never entered” his mind.

The trial also heard how Venables, then 49, had rekindled a “long-standing” affair he was having with his mother’s former carer, Lorraine Styles, months before his wife disappeared.

Brenda Venables’ psychiatrist told the murder trial David Venables Mr Venables was a typical farmer ‘displaying little to no affection to his wife, but showering praise on the family dog'

Venables told the jury he “very much regretted” the relationship with Ms Styles and denied having any other extramarital affairs.

He claimed his and his wife’s relationship remained a sexual one and that they continued to share a bed right up until she vanished.

However the jury heard evidence from notes made by Ms Venables’ consultant psychiatrist, who she was seeing for treatment for depression in March 1982, saying the couple had not slept together since 1968 and had not shared a bed for three years.

David Venables, 89, arrives at Worcester Crown Court (Jacob King/PA)

The physician recorded Venables was a “typical farmer – displaying little to no affection to his wife but showering praise on the family dog”.

Mr Venables told the court he fell in love with his “good-looking” wife after meeting her at a local farmers’ dance in 1957.

Giving evidence, the defendant, who wore earphones to hear the questions, said Ms Venables had been a member of the Kidderminster Young Farmers when he met her in 1957, when he was 25 and she was 23.

Aerial view of Quaking House Farm near Kempsey in Worcestershire where police discovered the remains of Brenda Venables in an underground cesspit

Asked by Timothy Hannam QC, defending, what attracted him to Ms Venables, he replied: “She was always very pleasant.”

He added: “Whenever you went out she was always good company and we just got on well together.

“She was very good-looking, just generally appealing.”

The court heard the couple married on 1 June 1960 at Rushock Church and had their honeymoon in Jersey.

Mr Venables said his farmer father offered him land at Quaking House - where Ms Venables’ body was found - and the couple moved in in February 1961.

Venables was remanded in custody and will be sentenced next Wednesday.

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