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Stephen Farrow denies killing Betty Yates but admits manslaughter of Rev John Suddards
THE man accused of murdering retired teacher Betty Yates at her Worcestershire home has denied any involvement in her death but has admitted the manslughter of a Gloucestershire vicar.
Stephen Farrow, aged 48, denies killing Mrs Yates at her cottage Riverscroft in Bewdley between January 1 and 5.
He admits the manslaughter of Rev John Suddards in Thornbury but denies murdering the clergyman between February 12 and 15 on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Both victims were found stabbed to death in their homes.
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, has admitted a separate charge of burgling Vine Cottage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, between December 21 last year and January 3 this year.
Mr Fitton told the jury a note was found on the kitchen table following the burglary that read: "Be thankful you did not come back or I would have killed you, you Christian scum. I f**king hate God."
The prosecutor told the jury: "There are two charges for you to decide upon.
"They relate to different individuals and different places.
"The first is the murder of Betty Yates between January 1 and 5 this year. Betty Yates was found stabbed to death at her home in Worcestershire by police officers on January 4.
"The last time any of her friends or family saw her alive was late afternoon on Monday, January 2.
"The defendant has pleaded not guilty to that count. He denies killing her. He denies any responsibility for her death at all.
"His case is that he was not at her house or in the area she lived on the day she died.
"Our case is that he was there and that he killed her and that he intended to kill her."
Mr Fitton added: "Count two is the murder of Reverend John Suddards.
"The Reverend Suddards was found stabbed to death by police officers on February 14.
"The last time any of his friends or family saw him alive was late afternoon on February 13.
"The defendant pleaded not guilty to that charge, but there is a significant difference in his case.
"Stephen Farrow admits he killed the Reverend John Suddards, what he denies is the charge of murder, he will only admit a charge of manslaughter."
Mr Fitton said Farrow is claiming a partial defence arising from his mental condition.
"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."
The court heard Farrow admits burgling Vine Cottage and stealing cash, a radio and jewellery amongst other items.
Mr Fitton said the three charges span a period of eight weeks and there are links between them and the burglary, the first offence in the time sequence.
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.
High Court judge Mr Justice Field is presiding over the trial, which is estimated to last up to six weeks.