Witham: Man Goes On Trial For Vicar Murder

3 October 2012, 06:17 | Updated: 3 October 2012, 06:21

A man will go on trial this week accused of the murders of a former Witham vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 47, denies murdering Rev John Suddards between February 12th and 15th and Betty Yates between January 1st and 5th this year.

Farrow, of no fixed address, admits the separate charge of burgling Vine Cottage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, between December 21st last year and January 3rd this year.

Mr Justice Field will oversee the six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court, where the jury selection process will begin today (Wednesday October 3rd).

Farrow was arrested in Folkestone, Kent, in February thanks to 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 on February 14th, while Mrs Yates, 77, was stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire on January 2nd.

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

News of his death sent shockwaves through the clergy and the close-knit community, about 11 miles north of Bristol. He had only taken up his post in July last year, 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.

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