Killer of Thornbury vicar dies in jail

A PSYCHOPATH who murdered a Thornbury vicar has died in prison.

Stephen Farrow was more than ten years into a whole life sentence imposed for the killing of the Rev John Suddards in February 2012 and a retired teacher, Betty Yates, a month earlier.

The 58-year-old was being held at Frankland Prison in County Durham, a high-security Category A jail.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMP Frankland prisoner Stephen Farrow died on 21 August.

“As with all deaths in custody, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will investigate.”

Farrow attacked Mr Suddards, who was 59, at the vicarage in Castle Street, next to St Mary’s Church, after knocking on his door on the evening of February 13, 2012.

He stabbed the vicar seven times and taunted him as he lay dying, before leaving a bible and other items on and around Mr Suddards’ body and staying overnight in the house, watching a DVD and drinking beer.

Mr Suddards (above) was found the following morning, by builders who were working on the vicarage.

Farrow had left DNA evidence at the vicarage and at the home of Mrs Yates, who he had stabbed to death in Worcestershire in January that year.

He was arrested a few days later at the channel port of Folkestone, in Kent.

At his trial in October and November 2012 Farrow denied murdering both of his victims, although he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Suddards on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Farrow had been diagnosed as a psychopath and his defence barrister argued it substantially affected his ability to exercise self-control.

However a jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted him of both murders, along with a burglary at another house near the vicarage in Thornbury, where he had left a note pinned to the householders’ table accusing them of being “Christian scum” and saying he would have killed them had they returned home.

The trial heard Farrow had an obsessive hatred of the church, claiming he had been sexually abused by a priest at a boarding school.

He had set fire to a church altar aged ten and had a long-standing fantasy about killing a vicar.

Trial judge Mr Justice Field said Farrow had “acted sadistically” in carrying out both “horrific” murders.

Mr Suddards was a former barrister who had been a vicar for 22 years and had only been at Thornbury for six months, having moved from a parish in Essex.

In a radio interview shortly before his death he had spoken of the importance for the church of taking in strangers, despite the dangers.

He said: “Christianity is always about risk – or it should be – and we always have to take risks. But we believe they are the risks we are called upon to take.”

After his death a memorial garden at St Paul’s in Thornbury, and funds to support homeless people and buy books for priests in training, were set up in his memory.

His sister made a donation towards equipping a children’s corner he had set up at St Mary’s.

At a memorial service held around the anniversary of Mr Suddards’ death his successor, Rev Dr Jan van der Lely, said he had been known for sharing food with those in need and trying to “show the love of Christ to the apparently unlovable”.

She said: “This way John trod, opening his door, giving help to strangers, not defending himself when threatened.

“He lived, that last night, in the most Christlike way possible.”