Pig farmer ‘got away with murder’ of wife for almost 40 years, court told

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An 89-year-old retired pig farmer “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years after dumping his wife in a septic tank before rekindling a “long-standing affair”, a court heard.

David Venables is alleged to have killed “prim and proper” Brenda Venables.

Her remains were discovered in the underground chamber, in what was once a “rough”, overgrown and “secluded ” spot, 37 years after she vanished, prosecutors said.

Michael Burrows QC, opening the prosecution case at Worcester Crown Court on Monday, said Venables had been in an on-off relationship with his mother’s former carer Lorraine Styles in the run-up to his wife’s disappearance.

Human remains found in septic tank
The cover of the septic tank at a house in Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, where Ms Venables’ remains were recovered. (Richard Vernalls/PA)

The Crown alleged Venables, then 49, killed his wife, 48, and dumped her body in a septic tank in the grounds of “remote” Quaking House Farm, off Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, Worcestershire, where the couple had lived since 1961.

Mr Burrows said: “The truth, say the prosecution, is that it was David Venables who killed her.

“He wanted her out of the way. He wanted to resume his long-standing affair with another woman.

“He knew about the septic tank in its secluded location.

“It was for him almost the perfect hiding place.”

He added: “And for nearly 40 years, it was the perfect place and he got away with murder.”

The jury heard Venables’ affair with Ms Styles started “around 1967”.

Mr Burrows said that by 1981, Ms Styles had “doubts again about David Venables’ feelings for her”, but the farm owner rekindled the affair over New Year, months before his wife vanished.

The Crown’s QC alleged Venables then saw Ms Styles two weeks after the disappearance, with the tryst only ending that winter.

Three months before her death, Mrs Venables told a consultant psychiatrist she “didn’t have a happy marriage” and that she and Venables “had not had sex since 1969”.

“She said her husband had had two affairs and they had not slept together in the same bed for three years,” said Mr Burrows.

The doctor noted she was “very depressed”, and had called the Samaritans in March because she “felt suicidal”.

Another acquaintance said Mrs Venables had “bad ankles”, leaving her with “limited mobility”.

Jurors heard Venables reported his wife missing at Worcester police station May 4 1982, after prompting from family friend Vicky Jennings.

She had visited on May 3, when Venables told of waking to find the front door open and his wife gone.

Ms Jennings said Venables “did not seem overly concerned”, and while searching nearby land “didn’t appear… to be actively searching for his wife”.

Police inquiries failed to find Mrs Venables, while “some people thought she had committed suicide”

After Venables sold the farmhouse in 2014, “small bones” thought to be a dog’s were found during routine cleaning of the septic tank.

But in July 2019, engineer Alistair Pitt found a “large clump of hair” and then spotted what he thought was a big stone in the bottom of the tank.

“He used the hoe to turn it over and saw it was a human skull,” said Mr Burrows.

Remains including the pelvis and thigh bones were also recovered – though it was impossible to determine cause of death – and DNA tests showed they were Mrs Venables’.

Remnants of clothing including half a pair of knickers, a pair of tights, a bra, remains of some shoes and a sweater were also found.

David Venables wearing jacket, hat and mask
David Venables, on bail, has been sitting in court wearing a suit and tie, and earphones in order to follow proceedings(Jacob King/PA)

When officers told Venables of the find, he spoke of knowing another woman who went missing, who had “been picked up by Fred West and managed to get out of his car”, the Crown’s QC said.

When Venables was later arrested, police found a book on Fred and Rose West at this house.

Venables initially allegedly “lied (to police) about the affair” with Ms Styles but “did not argue with the suggestions he was still in the relationship after his wife’s disappearance,” added Mr Burrows.

The Crown’s QC added it was “beyond belief” Mrs Venables “took her own life by climbing into the septic tank” before replacing the lid.

He also claimed it was “preposterous” to suggest she “walked out of their house that night and was confronted” by someone who attacked and killed her, then hid her in a tank “which so few people knew about”.

Venables, on bail, has been sitting in court wearing a suit and tie and earphones in order to follow proceedings, jurors have been told.

The pensioner, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, denies murdering his wife between May 2 and May 5 1982, and the trial, scheduled to last six weeks, continues.