Burglary 'linked to two killings'

Free Press Series: Stephen Farrow is accused of murdering a clergyman and a pensioner earlier this year Stephen Farrow is accused of murdering a clergyman and a pensioner earlier this year

A man accused of murdering a vicar and a retired teacher admitted carrying out a burglary in which a note threatening to "kill Christian scum" was pinned to the table with knives, a court has heard.

Stephen Farrow, 48, admits the manslaughter of Rev John Suddards but denies murdering the clergyman between February 12 and 15 this year on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He also denies the murder of Betty Yates between January 1 and 5 this year.

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.

Opening the case at Bristol Crown Court, prosecutor Michael Fitton QC told the jury of eight men and four women that Farrow, of no fixed address, admitted a separate charge of burgling Vine Cottage in Thornbury, south Gloucestershire, between December 21 last year and January 3 this year.

Mr Fitton said the three charges span a period of eight weeks and that there are "distinct" links between them. He said the burglary was the first offence in the time sequence.

The jury members were shown a map of Thornbury village which showed the proximity of the vicarage, where Mr Suddards's body was found, to Vine Cottage, from which cash, jewellery and a radio were stolen in the burglary.

Mr Fitton said a note was found on the kitchen table following the burglary that read: "Be thankful you didn't come back or we will have killed you, Christian scum. I f***ing hate God."

Mr Fitton said Farrow is claiming a partial defence arising from his mental condition.

He added: "He claims the defence of diminished responsibility. The prosecution recognise and accept the defendant has a relevant mental condition, a mental disorder, I will call it, but we do not accept that his mental disorder diminishes his responsibility for what he did to entitle him to that defence."

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 following the discovery of Mr Suddards's body.

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