Drifter Stephen Farrow guilty of murdering vicar John Suddards and Betty Yates
Stephen Farrow, 48, was today convicted of the brutal murders of Rev John Suddards in Thornbury and Betty Yates in Worcestershire.
The homeless vagrant - a diagnosed psychopath - denied the murders of Mr Suddards, 59, and Mrs Yates, 77.
But he admitted the clergyman’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, along with a separate burglary charge.
Farrow was sentenced to two whole life sentences.
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Bristol Crown Court heard Farrow had an obsession with religion – claiming he had been sexually abused at boarding school by a priest – and wanted to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The murder of Mr Suddards at his vicarage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, was the culmination of a two-month reign of terror in which Farrow killed Mrs Yates and threatened to kill “Christian scum”.
The trial heard that Farrow sent a chilling text message to a friend on New Year’s Eve last year, warning her that the “church will be the first to suffer”.
And according to Farrow, 2012 marked the start of the “second coming of Christ”.
Mr Suddards’s murder bore all the hallmarks of a ritualistic killing, the court was told.
He told a psychiatrist he had intended to crucify the clergyman to the floor and his death was part of his desire to “fulfil his fantasy”.
Mr Suddards was stabbed seven times and suffered wounds to his shoulder, chest, abdomen and shoulder.
He was discovered on the morning of February 14 lying fully clothed on his back in the hallway of his vicarage and surrounded by pornography, party poppers, a condom wrapper, underwear, a canvas of Jesus Christ and a mirror.
A copy of the New Testament – open to the Letter of Jude – was found on Mr Suddards’s chest with an A3-sized calendar of a semi-naked male model covering the lower half of his body.
After fatally stabbing Mr Suddards on the night of February 13, Farrow stayed at his victim’s home to watch an Indiana Jones DVD and drink beer.
He sent a text from the victim’s phone, describing the clergyman as a pervert.
Mr Suddards, a former barrister, took up his post at St Mary’s Church only in July last year, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford in Essex.
His death sent shockwaves through the close-knit Thornbury community.
Farrow was arrested on February 19 in Folkestone, Kent, after a nationwide manhunt by Avon and Somerset Police.
DNA evidence linked the heavy cannabis user to the murders of Mr Suddards and widow Mrs Yates, who was found dead at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 4, having been killed two days earlier.
Mrs Yates’s body was found lying in her hallway with her head resting on a cushion. She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed four times in the head, with the knife still embedded three inches in her neck.
Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates were both killed just weeks after a burglary at Vine Cottage, near to the vicarage in Thornbury.
Owners Alan and Margaret Pinder spent Christmas and New Year away and returned to find a note pinned to a table by two knives, which read: “Be thankful you didn’t come back or we will have killed you, Christian scum. I f****** hate God.”
Farrow has been diagnosed as a psychopath but the prosecution did not accept this reduced his culpability in the murder of Mr Suddards.
Prosecutor Michael Fitton QC said: “He was acting voluntarily and consciously and fully aware of his surroundings. He was not killing because he was mad.
“Our case is he killed the Rev Suddards calmly, decisively and acted that night in a manner which was focused, directed and controlled.”
A statement from the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham and the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd John Went:
“As a Diocese we are pleased that the trial of Stephen Farrow is over and a sentence has been reached. Recent months have been an immensely hard and painful time, both for John Suddards’ family and also the parishes of Thornbury and Oldbury-on-Severn where John had been vicar for such a short time, but had already come to be much loved.
“The end of the trial and the sentencing means family and parishes can now move on, though of course still with a great sense of loss. As a Diocese we shall continue to provide ongoing support for those who have been through this immensely painful time and hold them in our prayers.”