A homeless has been convicted of the brutal murders of a retired teacher in Worcestershire and a vicar in Gloucestershire.

Stephen Farrow, 48, was found guilty at Bristol Crown Court of killing Betty Yates, 77, at her home in Bewdley, and the Rev John Suddards, 59, at the vicarage in Thornbury.

Farrow, who was diagnosed as a psychopath, had denied the murders of Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates.

But Farrow, of no fixed abode, admitted the clergyman's manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and a separate burglary.

He was told by Mr Justice Field that he would never be released from prison.

Farrow had an obsession with religion - claiming he had been sexually abused at boarding school by a priest - and wanted to murder the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The murder of Mr Suddards at the vicarage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, was the culmination of a two-month reign of terror in which Farrow killed Mrs Yates and threatened to kill "Christian scum".

The trial heard that Farrow sent a chilling text message to a friend on New Year's Eve last year, warning her that the "church will be the first to suffer".

And according to Farrow, 2012 marked the start of the "second coming of Christ".

DNA evidence linked the heavy cannabis user to the murders of Mr Suddards and widow Mrs Yates, who was found dead at her cottage on the banks of the River Severn in Bewdley on January 4.

Mrs Yates's body was found lying in her hallway with her head resting on a cushion. She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed four times in the head, with the knife still embedded three inches in her neck.

 A swab taken from the back of Mrs Yates's left hand represented a "one-in-a-billion match" as a mixture of DNA belonging to the woman and Farrow, the court heard

Two days later, Mr Suddard was murdered in an attack which bore all the hallmarks of a ritualistic killing.
Farrow told a psychiatrist he had intended to crucify the clergyman to the floor and his death was part of his desire to "fulfil his fantasy".

Mr Suddards was stabbed seven times and suffered wounds to his shoulder, chest, abdomen and shoulder.

He was discovered on the morning of February 14 lying fully clothed on his back in the hallway of his vicarage and surrounded by pornography, party poppers, a condom wrapper, underwear, a canvas of Jesus Christ and a mirror.

A copy of the New Testament - open to the Letter of Jude - was found on Mr Suddards's chest with an A3-sized calendar of a semi-naked male model covering the lower half of his body.

After fatally stabbing Mr Suddards on the night of February 13, Farrow stayed at his victim's home to watch an Indiana Jones DVD and drink beer.

He sent a text from the victim's phone, describing the clergyman as a pervert.

Mr Suddards, a former barrister, took up his post at St Mary's Church only in July last year, having come from the diocese of Chelmsford in Essex.

His death sent shockwaves through the close-knit Thornbury community.

Farrow was arrested on February 19 in Folkestone, Kent, after a nationwide manhunt by Avon and Somerset Police.

Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates were both killed just weeks after a burglary at Vine Cottage, near to the vicarage in Thornbury.

Owners Alan and Margaret Pinder spent Christmas and New Year away and returned to find a note pinned to a table by two knives, which read: "Be thankful you didn't come back or we will have killed you, Christian scum. I f****** hate God."

Farrow has been diagnosed as a psychopath but the prosecution did not accept this reduced his culpability in the murder of Mr Suddards.

Prosecutor Michael Fitton QC said: "He was acting voluntarily and consciously and fully aware of his surroundings. He was not killing because he was mad.

"Our case is he killed the Rev Suddards calmly, decisively and acted that night in a manner which was focused, directed and controlled."

Mr Justic Field added: "The sentence for murder is a mandatory life sentence and in respect of each count I pass a life sentence.

"I next have to consider whether you should be made the subject of a whole life sentence or whether a minimum term should be set.

"I am satisfied that in your case a whole life sentence is an appropriate sentence in each of these dreadful, horrific killings. In my judgement, you acted sadistically.

"To put a knife deep into the body of Betty Yates as she lay helpless on the floor, having arranged her head on the pillow, was an act of absolute sadism.

"You did that because you wanted to. She wasn't threatening you. You put that knife in her to have the pleasure of doing it.

"As for Reverend Suddards, you killed him - having kicked him down, having told him to 'f****** hurry up and die' - with seven deep knife wounds.

"He was helpless. That conduct was clearly sadistic.

"Accordingly, there is no question in your case of the imposition of a minimum term."

Drifter lived on the fringes of society

The man found guilty of murdering a vicar in Thornbury and a retired teacher in Worcestershire was a psychopath who lived on the fringes of society.

Stephen Farrow, 48, travelled the country widely and frequently, carrying his belongings with him in a rucksack and sleeping rough. He had an unstable childhood and was described as an "uncontrollable child" who took pleasure in killing peoples' pets and shooting a swan with an air gun.

His mother said she had "understood there to be something very wrong" with him as a child. Following several assessments he was found to have Severe Dangerous Personality Disorder (SDPD).

When Farrow was 10 he had set fire to a church altar and stood and watched as it burned. He was expelled on his first day of school, experienced bullying, fighting, using weapons, setting fires and robbery.

Farrow went on to claim he had been abused as a child by the priests at his boarding school. He was found by psychiatrists to be a pathological liar, with a "grandiose sense of self-worth". He was arrogant, opinionated, showed no respect for the views of others and was deemed "dangerous", "very dark" and "fraudulent".

Fear and loathing of religion ran through his whole life. Farrow maintained the Church was very important to him, yet he was scornful of religious figures and wanted to kill the Archbishop of Canterbury. He described himself as "prophetic" and said he was able to predict events before they happened.

Farrow admitted he had originally planned to crucify Rev Suddards and saw his life in terms of "light and dark", "white and black", "good and evil". He spoke of the significance of the year 2012 - believing it would mark the start of the second coming of Christ.

His psychopathic tendencies led Farrow to be superficially charming and he manipulated people using scams - often directed against the Church.

He used his religious knowledge to "use and abuse" the kindness of others by "wiggling" his way into their lives. He chatted to people about the bible and made them feel he was interesting.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist, Dr Tim Rogers, said there are 20 traits of a psychopath - when each is given a score of up to two. Farrow scored 31 out of 40.

In Farrow, he found a number of psychopathy traits including a grandiose sense of self-worth, being prone to boredom, pathological lying, manipulative behaviour, a lack of empathy and early behavioural problems.

Farrow had tried to convince those that assessed him that he was "not just psychotic", but there was "something more" - a claim he hoped would help his defence.

Despite his efforts the jury saw through his facade and found that he was not insane, that he knew what he was doing, that he knew the difference between right and wrong and that he did what he did as a matter of choice.