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Suddards mourned as murderer given two life sentences

09 November 2012


Bereaved: the sister of the Revd John Suddards, Hillary Bosworth (right), with her daughter Vicky (centre), reads a statement on Friday outside Bristol Crown Court, with the daughter and son of Betty Yates, Hazel Costello (left) and David Yates (second left), after Stephen Farrow was found was found unanimously guilty of the murder of Mr Suddards, and guilty by a majority of 11-1 of the murder of Betty Yates PA

Bereaved: the sister of the Revd John Suddards, Hillary Bosworth (right), with her daughter Vicky (centre), reads a statement on Friday outside Bris...

A JURY at Bristol Crown Court has unanimously found Stephen Farrow guilty of the murder of the Revd John Suddards.

Mr Farrow was also found guilty of the murder of Betty Yates, a pensioner, and sentenced to two whole life sentences. He had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Suddards, the Vicar of Thornbury, in Gloucestershire, who was found dead in his vicarage on 14 February ( News, 16 February) on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but this plea was not accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Farrow had denied any involvement in the murder of Mrs Yates, aged 77, who was found dead in her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on 4 January.

Mr Farrow, who had no fixed address, had been diagnosed with a psychopathic personality disorder; but the jury found that he knew what he was doing when he stabbed both victims. The judge, Mr Justice Field, said that Mr Farrow had "acted sadistically" in perpetrating the "dreadful, horrific killings".

DNA evidence linked Mr Farrow to the murders. Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp from Avon and Somerset Police thanked "those members of the public who performed their civic duty in reporting sightings of Farrow and who assisted us in recovering vital items of evidence". He paid tribute to Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates, who were "in every way exemplary members of our community - honest people who were prepared to offer help to those in need - values which deserve our admiration and respect".

Speaking at court, Mr Suddards's sister, Hilary Bosworth, said: "My brother John was a good man, who dedicated his life to serving God and helping other people. He was a much loved uncle to my three children, and a dear friend to so many, and he is greatly missed." She paid tribute to the "brilliant" work of the police, and thanked Mr Crisp "and all those involved, for their determination to get justice for John".

The family of Mrs Yates said in a statement: "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."

On Friday, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham, and the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd John Went, said that recent months had been "an immensely hard and painful time" for the family of Mr Suddards and his parishes, where he was "much loved". The end of the trial meant that they could "move on, though of course still with a great sense of loss".

On Saturday, Bishop Perham, said that priests experienced "vulnerability" and that "there may be some things we can do specifically about particular vicarages and rectories".

The new Vicar of Thornbury, the Revd Dr Jan Van der Lely, said on Friday that she felt "completely safe" moving into the vicarage, which has been blessed by the Archdeacon of Gloucester, the Ven. Geoffrey Sidaway, and which is alarmed, with a security light outside.

Dr Van der Lely, who lives with her husband, said that proper precautions would be taken, but that "we don't want to turn people away or seem unwelcoming because of one crazy, random crime. . . We do want to have an open-door policy." Parishoners had suffered "shock and trauma", but were "at a stage now when they are ready to look to the future". Mr Suddards would be "very difficult to follow".

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