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Thornbury vicar murder: Suspect in court over double murder

A scar-faced drifter accused of stabbing the vicar of Thornbury to death was remanded in custody yesterday

Stephen Farrow

Stephen Farrow

A scar-faced drifter accused of stabbing the vicar of Thornbury to death was remanded in custody yesterday after he appeared in court charged with double murder.

Stephen Farrow, 47 – at 6ft 4 inch – towered over his three female prison officers in the dock of North Avon Magistrates Court.

He spoke only to confirm his name as a court clerk read out the charges – including the fatal stabbing of Reverend John Suddards, 59, in his vicarage.

The suspect, dressed in a grey fleece tucked into khaki combat trousers, then raised his eyebrows as the clerk read out the charge relating to the murder of Betty Yates, 77.

Retired teacher Mrs Yates was found beaten with her own walking stick and stabbed in the neck at the foot of her stairs inside her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, last month.

Farrow, who pursed his lips continuously during the five-minute hearing, was also charged with stealing cash, jewellery and a Roberts radio from Vine Cottage in Thornbury.

He was remanded in custody for a bail hearing at Bristol Crown Court today before a preliminary hearing on March 3 and a plea and case management appearance on June 1.

District Judge Joti Bopa Rai told him: “The two charges of murder can only be tried in the crown court, so I am sending your case to the crown court.

“The burglary case, as it is connected, will also go to the crown court. If found guilty of murder you would face a mandatory life sentence.”

The unshaven suspect glanced at the 20-strong watching media as he was handcuffed in the dock by his prison officer and led towards the cells.

Farrow was arrested at an address in Folkestone, Kent, at 4.20am on Sunday after a nationwide appeal for his whereabouts.

The drifter, who confirmed he was of no fixed abode, is accused of killing Mrs Yates at her idyllic cottage along the River Severn between January 1 and 5 this year.

The pensioner, an active member of her community, was found dead in the riverside cottage she had lived in for more than 30 years on January 4.

Tests revealed that the widow of seven years had been beaten with her walking stick before being stabbed in the neck.

Just one month later, Rev John Suddards was found dead from multiple stab wounds at his vicarage in Thornbury, 60 miles away.

Rev Suddards’ body was discovered in a pool of blood in his hallway by two builders who entered the property to carry out planned work at 10.20am on February 14.

The vicar, who had previously spoken at the risks of his job, had served the church for 22 years after leaving work as a barrister in London following a car accident.

Farrow also faces one count of burglary – of the cash, jewellery and radio – relating to Vine Cottage in Thornbury between December 21, 2011 and January 3, 2012.

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