Witham: Man In Court Over Double Murders

23 February 2012, 06:16 | Updated: 23 February 2012, 06:19

A 47-year-old man will appear in court today (Thursday February 23rd) accused of the murders of former Witham vicar John Suddards and retired teacher Betty Yates.

Stephen Farrow will face North Avon Magistrates' Court in Yate, South Gloucestershire, accused of killing the clergyman and the pensioner.

Farrow is accused of the murder of Mr Suddards between February 13 and 14 and the murder of Mrs Yates between January 1 and 5.

He also faces a charge of burglary relating to a separate property in Thornbury between December 21 2011 and January 3 2012.

Farrow was arrested in Folkestone, Kent, on Sunday following a tip-off from the public after Avon and Somerset Police launched a nationwide manhunt.

Mr Suddards, 59, was found stabbed to death at his home in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, on February 14, while Mrs Yates, 77, was also knifed to death at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 2.

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 Mr Suddards' death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, which lies about 11 miles north of Bristol.

He had only taken up his post 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.

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.