Vicar’s killer ‘wielded blade in burglary’

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A man accused of stabbing a priest and a former primary school teacher to death had previously bragged of having killed before, a court heard yesterday.

Bristol Crown Court heard Stephen Farrow has a previous conviction for aggravated burglary nearly 20 years ago, during which homeowner Stella Crow said she was threatened with a knife and told she might be killed.

Farrow, 48, admits the manslaughter of the Rev John Suddards in Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies murder. He also denies killing Betty Yates, 77, who was found stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire.

Farrow, of no fixed address, admits burgling another property, Vine Cottage, also in Thornbury, over the Christmas and new year period that year.

The jury was told Farrow pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at an address in Heath Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, in August 1994.

The owner, who was 77 at the time but has since died, opened her front door to a man who produced a knife with a “12-inch blade”.

In her statement, parts of which are disputed by the defence, Ms Crow said: “He asked for money and jewellery. Then he said that if anyone came in, he would kill me and the dogs. He said, ‘I have killed before’.

“He was holding the knife above my head in a stabbing stance.”

Michael Fitton QC, prosecuting, said forensic evidence, including links to the footwear worn by Farrow at the time of his arrest in February, connected all three cases. Scientific experts are expected to give evidence next week.

The jury was told Mr Suddards, 59, was killed at his home weeks after the burglary at nearby Vine Cottage.

The owners had returned from holiday to find their home ransacked and a note pinned to the table with two kitchen knives which read: “Be thankful you didn’t come back or we will have killed you, Christian scum. I f****** hate God.”

In a written statement to the court, the couple said they felt “threatened” by the note, shown to the jury yesterday.

Margaret Pinder and her husband had spent much of the festive season away from home, leaving on December 22 and returning on January 2.

They came back to find their cottage ransacked, with items strewn all over the floor and half-eaten food left abandoned around the house.

She said the reference to religion “confused” her, since neither she nor her husband were church-goers, and there was no religious imagery in the home.

She said there had been a magazine in the toilet with the headline “Is God green?” but it was an ecology publication.

The case continues.