In early 2012 two sadistic, purposeless murders shocked Great Britain like few others have in terms of public revulsion.
by Ben Johnson
The sentencing of a British man who perpetrated two of the most sadistic murders the UK has ever seen took place in Bristol on November 2, 2012. .
At a 10-day trial, the jury heard how a sickening chain of events that led to a vicar being found callously murdered, with pornography and condoms being placed on and around the body.
Stephen Farrow, described as a “psychopath with an intense hatred for religion” was sentenced to whole life imprisonment, the harshest sentence available in the UK for the murders of a retired teacher and the vicar, Reverend John Suddards, during which he arranged their bodies into grotesque and humiliating poses.
This whole life sentence ranks Farrow among such killers as Dennis Nilsen, Steven Griffiths “the Crossbow Cannibal” and “Moors Murderer” Ian Brady in the annals of British crime history.
Farrow denied killing 77-year-old Betty Yates, but admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility for the brutal slaying of 59-year-old Reverend Suddards.
The first sickening attack took place on January 2, 2012, during which Farrow attacked Betty Yates in her own home, beating her repeatedly with her walking cane before arranging her body so that her head lay on a pillow, before delivering one last wound, a stab to the throat, leaving the knife protruding from the wound. The body remained undiscovered for two days.
Farrow, a drifter, with no real roots anywhere in the country then fled the scene and remained at large for over a month. During this time, police received two anonymous letters giving them new leads to investigate, however, the authors have never revealed their identity.
The murder was big news, as Mrs. Yates had lived an unassuming life in the idyllic surroundings of Bewdley, Worcestershire. The former teacher was well liked in the community and her unfathomable murder shocked the nation.
A popular TV programme, “Crimestoppers,” offered a £10,000 reward for any information which led to a conviction, yet received only a few calls. One of those calls, however, proved to be extremely valuable as a member of the public was able to describe the killer’s car.
Exactly a month after the death of Mrs. Yates, a man was arrested in connection with her murder, but was eventually released on bail after police could not find enough evidence to convict. No information as to the identity of this man has ever been released.
Nine days later, Farrow forced his way into the home of Reverend John Suddards, repeatedly stabbing him before leaving a horrific and shocking crime scene.
|Reverend John Suddards|
Farrow told a psychiatrist during his trial that he intended to “crucify the clergyman to fulfil his fantasies” but settled for creating a vile and humiliating crime scene.
The vicar was left in the hallway, lying on his back surrounded by pornography, condom wrappers, party poppers, and pages torn from the bible.
A large poster of a naked man was spread over the bottom half of the body, and a copy of the New Testament lay upon the victim’s chest, open at the Letter of Jude.
Farrow then chose to spend the night in the house, reportedly settling down on the dead man's sofa to drink beer and watch an Indiana Jones movie.
Chillingly, the two murders occurred just months after a burglary at a house near to the vicarage in which Reverend Suddards lived. However, the two occupants of the house were spending Christmas with family, but returned to a horrifying note, pinned to the table with two large knives.
The note read “Be thankful you didn't come back or we would have killed you. Christian scum. I hate God.”
Despite leaving very little evidence during the burglary, or the murder of Mrs. Yates, Farrow did leave vital DNA at the home of Reverend Suddards, linking the two murders to the same perpetrator.
The brutal killer was eventually apprehended on the February 22 and charged with two counts of murder, and one of burglary. The man originally arrested for the murder of Mrs. Yates was then reported to be “no longer helping police with their inquiries” and released immediately.
During the next nine months in which Farrow was held in prison before his eventual trial, many chilling details would emerge in regards to the true level of psychopathic behavior exhibited by this remorseless killer.
A friend of Farrow revealed to police that she had received a very frightening text message from the killer just days before the murder of Mrs. Yates; it read “the Church will be the first to suffer.”
Diagnosed by psychiatrists as having a psychopathic personality disorder, Farrow, however, was deemed fit to stand trial for his sadistic acts.
The defence counsel argued that this disorder had played a vital part in the actions of the killer, but the jury disagreed, deciding that Farrow knew exactly what he was doing while killing his victims, unanimously finding him guilty of the murder of Reverend Suddards, and by an 11 to 1 majority for the murder of Mrs. Yates.
|Stephen Farrow in court|
The killer was present in court during his sentencing, which was something of an oddity in this particular trial, as Farrow had spent much of the proceedings refusing to leave his prison cell.
The judge, Mr. Justice Field, summed Farrow up as a “sadist” who had deliberately posed the vicars body “to humiliate the reverend and desecrate his memory.”
On the death of Mrs. Yates, the judge stated “To put a knife deep into the body of Betty Yates as she lay helplessly on the floor was sadistic. You did that because you wanted to. She wasn't threatening you. You put that knife in her body because you wanted to.”
Farrow, who claimed he killed because he had been sexually abused by a priest while at boarding school showed no emotion during the handing down of the UK's most serious punishment.
This case is one that will find its way into many books about evil killers, and will remain a talking point in the UK for many years. The murders themselves, sadly, would have been everyday news, but the desecration of the bodies has ensured that these crimes will have a place among the most sickening murders ever committed in the UK.
The name Stephen Farrow will forever be etched into the memories of many people, bringing with it revulsion at the heinous murders of two innocent victims, but also the true extent to which humanity can lower itself.
The only consolation to the families of the victims is the certainty that this killer will breathe his last breath behind bars. His death, however, will almost certainly be more dignified than those of Betty Yates and Reverend John Suddards.