Retired farmer, 89, 'murdered wife and hid body in septic tank to rekindle affair'

13 June 2022, 17:09 | Updated: 13 June 2022, 17:29

David Venables is accused of murdering his wife Brenda at their home in 1982
David Venables is accused of murdering his wife Brenda at their home in 1982. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A retired pig farmer has gone on trial accused of murdering his wife nearly 40 years ago and hiding her body in a septic tank so that he could continue his "long-standing affair".

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David Venables, 89, is alleged to have killed his wife Brenda Venables and dumped her body in a septic tank in the grounds of "remote" Quaking House Farm in Worcestershire in May 1982.

He reported his wife, who was 48 at the time, missing and no trace of her was found until nearly 2019 when police discovered human remains, including a skull, in a cesspit at a property where the couple used to live.

The remains were discovered in the underground chamber, in what was once a "rough", overgrown and "secluded " spot, 37 years after she vanished, by contractors, clearing out the tank at the house which had since been sold to Venables' nephew.

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.

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.

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The cover of the septic tank at a house in Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, Worcestershire where the female human remains were found on July 12
The cover of the septic tank at a house in Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, Worcestershire where the female human remains were found on July 12. Picture: Alamy

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

"It was for him almost the perfect hiding place.

"It meant he didn't have to travel and risk being seen making a suspicious journey around the time of her disappearance or risk being seen disposing of her body somewhere else.

"And, of course, even if someone did think to look inside the tank, her body would be hidden from view.

"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", and continued on and off.

Mr Burrows said that by 1981, Ms Styles had "doubts again about David Venables' feelings for her", but that the farm owner rekindled the extramarital affair over that Christmas and New Year, just months before his wife vanished.

The Crown's QC said Ms Styles, at that time, ended a relationship she was having with another man, "in reliance on what Mr Venables had said to her" about his romantic intentions.

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David Venables, 89, is alleged to have killed his wife Brenda Venables so that he could rekindle a 'long-standing affair'
David Venables, 89, is alleged to have killed his wife Brenda Venables so that he could rekindle a 'long-standing affair'. Picture: Alamy

But "she noticed that David Venables did not mention his divorce, unless she brought the subject up and even then he made excuses", added Mr Burrows.

Jurors heard Venables reported his wife missing at Worcester police station May 4 1982.

"He said he had awoken that morning and that his wife was not in bed nor in the house," said Mr Burrows.

"He also said she had been depressed."

A police investigation failed to find any trace of Mrs Venables, while "some people thought she had committed suicide".

"DNA testing showed the remains were those of Brenda Venables," said Mr Burrows.

The Crown's QC added: "The prosecution say that it is beyond belief to suppose that Brenda Venables took her own life by climbing into the septic tank and that she somehow shifted the heavy lid and put it back in place above her so that there was no sign of any disturbance."

He said: "The farm itself is in a remote location and the septic tank, itself, was in a very secluded area.

"Very few people knew about it.

"The prosecution say it is preposterous to suppose that Brenda Venables walked out of their house that night and was confronted by someone outside the house.

"Someone who just happened to be outside her home then and who attacked and killed her and hid her body in the septic tank, which was hidden from view and 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.