Braintree district: Updated: Vicar murder trial to begin

Braintree district: Vicar murder trial to begin

Braintree district: Vicar murder trial to begin

First published in News

Jury selection began today in the trial of a man accused of the murders of a vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 48, denies murdering Rev John Suddards in February and Betty Yates in January this year.

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

Today at Bristol Crown Court, trial judge Mr Justice Field asked the panel of 60 potential jurors whether the estimated six-week length of the case would cause anyone any difficulties.

The panel was whittled down to 37 by the judge and the remaining jurors in waiting were sent away with a detailed questionnaire about the trial to consider overnight.

The process to select the jury will continue tomorrow morning and a final panel of 12 will be selected at random and sworn in.

Michael Fitton QC, prosecuting, is then expected to open the Crown's case against Farrow, who is being represented by Peter Gower QC.

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 14, while Mrs Yates, 77, was stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley, Worcestershire, on January 2.

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 4, having been killed two days earlier.

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