Stephen Farrow found guilty of murdering Reverend John Suddards of Thornbury and pensioner Betty Yates

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By matt_2009 | Friday, November 02, 2012, 13:19

From Avon and Somerset Constabulary...

Stephen Farrow was today (Friday November 2) found guilty of the murders of pensioner Betty Yates from Bewdley, Worcestershire and the Reverend John Suddards of Thornbury.

Farrow, who is 49 and of no fixed address, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Reverend Suddards on the grounds of diminished responsibility but this was not accepted by the prosecution. He had denied any involvement in the murder of pensioner Betty Yates.

Following a four week trial the jury of eight men and four women today convicted him of both murders. Farrow was sentenced to two whole life sentences. He was also sentenced for an aggravated burglary which he admitted carrying out at Vine Cottage, Thornbury, between 21 December last year and 3rd January 2012. He'll serve three years concurrent for this crime.

Betty Yates who was 77, was found dead in her cottage in Bewdley Worcestershire on Wednesday January 4, 2012. She had been stabbed and beaten with her own walking stick.

Reverend Suddards, who was 59, was found dead in the vicarage in Thornbury on Tuesday 14 February 2012. He had also been stabbed to death in his own home.

A national manhunt was launched to locate Farrow and he was arrested in Folkestone, Kent on Sunday 19th February 2012.

Avon and Somerset officers have worked closely with West Mercia Police throughout this investigation and also many other UK police forces that assisted with the search.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp from Avon and Somerset Police said:

"Stephen Farrow was a drifter with no fixed address and no ties to any particular area. He was located and arrested many miles away from where he committed these crimes within 48 hours of him being identified as a suspect. There is no doubt in my mind that this swift arrest prevented further offences being committed.

"During this investigation invaluable assistance was provided by Dorset, Sussex and Kent police who worked tirelessly with us, West Mercia Constabulary and the Serious and Organised Crime agency to track and arrest Farrow.

"The National Police Database was also essential to our enquiry. Farrow was identified as a suspect as a result of partial DNA evidence, obtained with help from our forensic service providers.

"However, it is to those members of the public who performed their civic duty in reporting sightings of Farrow and who assisted us in recovering vital items of evidence to who we owe our sincerest thanks. They know who they are and I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I am most grateful to them for their help.

"I would like to pay tribute to the two innocent victims in this case. Betty Yates and John Suddards were in every way exemplary members of our community - honest people who were prepared to offer help to those in need - values which deserve our admiration and respect.

"Finally I'd like to thank our first rate prosecution team led by the CPS here in Bristol who coordinated a complicated and challenging case through to today's final conclusion."

Following the murder of Reverend Suddards 2,782 exhibits were collated, 347 witness statements were taken and 1,013 evidential documents were produced. The detailed forensic examination of the vicarage took specialists three weeks.

Speaking at court Reverend Suddards' sister Hilary Bosworth said: "My brother John was a good man, who dedicated his life to serving God and helping other people. He was a much loved uncle to my three children, and a dear friend to so many, and he is greatly missed. In the nine months since John died, we have experienced all the grief of losing a loved one, but we have also had to come to terms with the fact that John's life was taken, in a very violent and totally unprovoked attack, in his own home.

"Thankfully for all concerned, only six days after the offence, Stephen Farrow was arrested. This brilliant piece of police work was largely down to DCI Simon Crisp, and his team at Avon and Somerset Police, without whose clear and quick thinking, courage and dedication to the task, Farrow may not have been apprehended. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him, and all those involved, for their determination to get justice for John."

Senior Investigating Officer in the Betty Yates case, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Jamieson said: "Without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the biggest criminal cases that West Mercia Police has investigated in recent years.

"The team of officers who worked on this inquiry were horrified at the nature of the violence used in the (murder of/death of remove as appropriate) Betty Yates and the callous disregard for life.

"The most important thing for us was to bring the offender to justice and in doing so ensure we did our very best for Betty's family. That was all the motivation we needed."

Betty leaves behind her two children Hazel and David and many other family members and friends. In a statement they said: "We should all be relieved and thankful that Stephen Farrow is off the streets of Britain today. It is clear from his own words that had he not been caught he would have continued to kill others and leave more misery in his wake.

"We have seen at first hand the complexity of this enquiry and we want to thank the police and everybody involved for their tireless work, their attention to detail and their consideration throughout this process.

"In the most difficult of times you rely on your friends and family and we thank all of you for your help and good wishes over the past months.

"For our mother there is now some public justice but our personal loss remains raw and will continue.

"For us it is important that our mum does not become defined by the brutality of her death but is celebrated for the 77 years of her life. She will be remembered by her family, friends, colleagues and pupils as a woman who was kind, determined and above all good fun. We are not in denial about the circumstances of her death but we can and do choose to keep her memory in the joy she gave in life; to do otherwise would be a betrayal."

CPS Senior District Crown Prosecutor Sian Sullivan said: "From the beginning of the joint investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with both Avon and Somerset and West Mercia police forces. As the reviewing lawyer I have personally handled this case throughout and must thank all the families for their cooperation and understanding under such difficult and emotional circumstances.

"We will never know what went on in Steven Farrow's mind as he took the lives of Reverend Suddards and Betty Yates but we hope their families take some comfort in the knowledge that he has today been convicted of two offences of murder and that he previously pleaded guilty to an offence of burglary. We must now await the sentences imposed by the court and we anticipate they will reflect the brutal nature of these crimes and the devastating effect they had on the victims' families and the communities in which each played such an active role."

      

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