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Stephen Farrow: John Suddards and Betty Yates murderer jailed for life

image captionFarrow claimed he had been sexually abused at boarding school by a priest

A homeless drifter who murdered a vicar and a retired teacher has been jailed for the rest of his life.

Stephen Farrow stabbed to death the Rev John Suddards, 59, in Thornbury, near Bristol, and Betty Yates, 77, at her home, in Bewdley, Worcestershire.

The defendant, 48, who Bristol Crown Court heard was obsessed with religion, was convicted by a jury of the murders.

Describing the "horrific" killings, Judge Mr Justice Field told Farrow he had "acted sadistically".

Farrow had admitted the manslaughter of Mr Suddards on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denied his murder. He denied stabbing Mrs Yates.

He had refused to leave his cell for parts of the trial, despite a jury request to attend so they could hear his evidence. However, he was in the dock for the verdicts.

Farrow had been diagnosed with a psychopathic personality disorder and his barrister argued it "substantially affected" his ability to exercise self-control.

'Christian scum'

But by finding him guilty of murder, the jury found he knew what he was doing when he stabbed both victims.

Speaking outside court, Mr Suddards' sister Hilary Bosworth said the deaths had "raised many questions about how things might have been different and what might have been done to avert these tragedies".

image captionBetty Yates and the Reverend John Suddards were killed within six weeks of each other

She questioned whether the country does enough to ensure psychopaths with a known history of violence are not "left roaming around at large ready to attack someone".

"Do we, as a society, need to think again about how we might better monitor those in the community?" she asked.

Mrs Yates's daughter Hazel Costello said: "For our mother there is now some public justice, but our personal loss remains raw and will continue.

"For us it is important that our mum does not become defined by the brutality of her death but is celebrated for the 77 years of her life."

Farrow had claimed he had been sexually abused at boarding school by a priest, and that he wanted to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The murder of Mr Suddards at his vicarage was the culmination of a two-month reign of terror in which Farrow killed Mrs Yates and threatened to kill "Christian scum".

The trial had heard that Farrow sent a chilling text message to a friend on New Year's Eve last year, warning her that the "Church will be the first to suffer".

DNA evidence

Farrow told a psychiatrist he had intended to crucify the clergyman and his death was part of his desire to "fulfil his fantasy".

Mr Suddards was stabbed seven times and suffered wounds to his shoulder, chest and abdomen.

media captionThe BBC's Jon Brain reports on how the case unfolded

He was discovered on the morning of 14 February lying on his back in the hallway of his vicarage and surrounded by pornography, party poppers, a condom wrapper, underwear, a canvas of Jesus Christ and a mirror.

A copy of the New Testament - open to the Letter of Jude - was found on Mr Suddards' chest with an A3-sized calendar of a semi-naked male model covering the lower half of his body.

The judge told Farrow he was sure he had done this "to humiliate the reverend and to desecrate his memory".

'Sadistic killer'

After fatally stabbing Mr Suddards on the night of 13 February, Farrow stayed at his victim's home to watch an Indiana Jones DVD and drink beer.

DNA evidence linked the heavy cannabis user to the murders of Mr Suddards and widow Mrs Yates, who was found dead at her cottage on 4 January, having been killed two days earlier.

Mrs Yates's body was found lying in her hallway with her head resting on a cushion.

She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed four times in the head, with the knife still embedded in her neck.

Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates were both killed weeks after a burglary at Vine Cottage, near the vicarage in Thornbury.

media captionHilary Bosworth: "My brother John was a good man, who dedicated his life to serving God and helping other people"

Owners Alan and Margaret Pinder spent Christmas and new year away and returned to find a note pinned to a table by two knives, which read: "Be thankful you didn't come back or we would have killed you, Christian scum. I hate God."

Farrow pleaded guilty to the burglary at an earlier hearing.

The judge told Farrow: "I am satisfied that in your case a whole life sentence is an appropriate sentence in each of these dreadful, horrific killings.

"In my judgement, you acted sadistically."


He 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. She wasn't threatening you. You put that knife in her to have the pleasure of doing it."

The judge said Farrow had killed Mr Suddards having "kicked him down" and had told him to "hurry up and die".

"He was helpless. That conduct was clearly sadistic."

Det Ch Insp Simon Crisp, from Avon and Somerset police, said Farrow was a "sadistic and remorseless killer".

media captionAvon and Somerset Police say Stephen Farrow, the murderer of the Rev John Suddards and Betty Yates, is a 'sadistic killer'

He said: "He was a drifter who had no ties to any particular area of the country which made him a difficult individual to investigate.

"He left precious few clues despite the nature of his offences. However once we recognised him as a suspect, we also recognised that detaining him before he went on to commit further offences was absolutely vital."

He said he was grateful for the help of the public, adding: "It was a direct result of one such call that allowed us to arrest Farrow in Folkestone, Kent, in February earlier this year. That person knows who she is and I would offer my sincere thanks to her."

Sian Sullivan, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The sentence today reflects the brutal nature of these crimes and the devastating effect they had on the victims' families and the community in which they each played such an active role."

The jury was unanimous in finding Farrow guilty of the vicar's murder, and found him guilty of murdering Mrs Yates by a majority of 11 to one.

More on this story

  • Stephen Farrow 'the psychopath'