Accused ‘had bragged of a previous killing’

A homeless man accused of stabbing to death retired Bewdley schoolteacher Betty Yates and a priest had bragged of having killed before, a court heard.

Stephen Farrow is accused of murdering Betty Yates
Stephen Farrow is accused of murdering Betty Yates

Stephen Farrow has a conviction for aggravated burglary nearly 20 years ago, during which Stourbridge homeowner Stella Crow said she was threatened with a knife and told she might be killed, the jury was told. Farrow admits the manslaughter of the Rev John Suddards in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies murder.

The 48-year-old also denies killing Betty Yates, 77, who was found stabbed at her cottage in Bewdley.

Farrow, of no fixed address, admits burgling another property, Vine Cottage, also in Thornbury.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court, was told Farrow had pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary in Heath Road, Stourbridge, in August 1994.

The owner, who was 77 at the time but has since died, opened her front door to a man who said he was there to meet a girl. The woman told him there was not a girl living at the property and the man asked if he could use her phone to call his parents in Wall Heath.

But as her back was turned, he produced a knife with a “12-in blade”, the court heard.

In her statement, Ms Crow said: “He asked for money and jewellery. Then he said that if anyone came in, he would kill me. He said: ‘I have killed before’.

“He was holding the knife above my head in a stabbing stance.”

The court heard Ms Crow was knocked to the floor and had suffered an injury to her eye.

Michael Fitton QC, prosecuting, said forensic evidence, including links to the footwear worn by Farrow at the time of his arrest in February, connected all three cases.

The jury was told that Mr Suddards, 59, was killed at his home weeks after the burglary at nearby Vine Cottage.

The owners returned from holiday to find their home ransacked and a note pinned to the table with two kitchen knives which read: “Be thankful you didn’t come back or we will have killed you.” The case continues next week.