Wednesday 21 February 2018

Video: Murders of vicar and former teacher linked, say police


THE murders of a retired teacher at her home and that of a clergyman in his vicarage have been formally linked, detectives in Britain have said.

West Mercia Police officers investigating the killing of pensioner Betty Yates, 77, in Bewdley, Worcs, on January 2 say they are working with the team investigating the stabbing of the Rev John Suddards, 59, in Thornbury, South Glos, last Tuesday.

Mrs Yates was found dead at the bottom of stairs at her home on the banks of the River Severn on January 4. The body of Mr Suddards, who was the vicar of St Mary’s church, was discovered by workmen who had arrived to carry out repairs at the vicarage.

Yesterday, a suspect wanted for Mr Suddards’ murder was arrested as he tried to escape from the back of a house in Kent.

Stephen Farrow, 47, was detained by police during a dawn raid in Folkestone following a tip-off from a member of the public.

A West Mercia Police spokesman said last night: “It can be confirmed that, following close liaison with Avon and Somerset Police, detectives have formally linked the murder of Mrs Yates to the murder of the Rev John Suddards in South Gloucestershire.”

He added: “Like Mrs Yates, he had been stabbed to death.”

Yesterday, police officers stood guard outside the three-storey, end-of-terrace home where Mr Farrow was arrested at 4.20am. A mobile phone seen lying on the back garden path of the house was thought to have been dropped by the suspect.

Neighbours told how six police cars had arrived at the property.

One man, who declined to give his name, claimed to have been inside the home at the time of the raid.

He said he knew Mr Farrow as “Steve” and claimed he was a drifter who sometimes turned up at the address.

He said: “He normally only turns up when he wants something, like money to buy drink. He’s a bit of a drinker.

“I didn’t know he was wanted for the vicar’s murder until someone told me after he was nicked.”

The occupants of the house where he was arrested are a woman and her three grown-up sons, according to neighbours. One neighbour said: “I heard a bit of shouting and commotion and then it all went quiet.

“One or two police cars have stayed here but they have just been keeping an eye on the house.”

Another neighbour said: “It’s a big shock. You don’t expect the police to suddenly turn up in the street where you live to arrest a murder suspect.”

The arrest came hours before a senior church figure, speaking at Mr Suddards’s church, said the clergy should continue to open their doors to “people who are distressed and angry” in the wake of the murder.

The Ven Geoffrey Sidaway, Archdeacon of Gloucester, spoke after taking the Sunday morning service at St Mary’s church, saying it was not the time for the clergy to close their doors.

“By the nature of the position, clergy are often dealing with people who are distressed and angry, and that can put us in very vulnerable situations,” he said.

“The door must stay open – that is the whole point of the job. We need to be a church with an open door, which is there to welcome and to help everyone.”

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