Farmer who killed wife and hid body in septic tank screams 'no, no' as he gets life

20 July 2022, 16:56 | Updated: 20 July 2022, 21:11

David Venables, 89, has been jailed for life
David Venables, 89, has been jailed for life. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

A retired pig farmer who was convicted of murdering his wife and hiding her body in a septic tank has been jailed for life.

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David Venables, 89, killed Brenda Venables in 1982. Her body was found in the tank 37 years after she vanished, hidden away in the grounds of "remote" Quaking House Farm in Worcestershire.

Venables, who was convicted last week of her murder, was given life in prison with a minimum term of 18 years at Worcester Crown Court on Wednesday. He was heard shouting "no, no" as he was taken away to serve his sentence.

A judge said he believed Venables killed Brenda to avoid complications in any divorce proceedings, as he had been in an on-off relationship with another woman before his wife disappeared.

Passing sentence on David Venables, High Court Judge Mrs Justice Tipples said: "You killed Brenda Venables in her own home, where she was recuperating with an injured leg and suffering from depression.

"You were Brenda's husband and she should have been able to trust you.

"Your complete lack of respect for Brenda is obvious from your decision to dispose of her body in the septic tank.

"The fact that is what you did with her body is disgusting and repulsive."

Read more: Man, 89, guilty of murder after wife's body found in septic tank years after disappearance

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

After his wife's disappearance in 1982, Venables reported her missing, with no trace of her found until nearly 2019.

Police discovered human remains, including a skull, in a cesspit at a property where the couple used to live and which had since been sold to Venables' nephew for more than £460,000.

Venables appeared calm to those who knew him following the murder, the court previously heard.

Michael Burrows QC, told the court that he had been in an on-off relationship with his mother's former carer Lorraine Styles in the run-up to his wife's disappearance.

He later sought an annulment of his marriage to Mrs Venables, who was described by relatives and friends in court as a kind, hospitable and friendly woman.

The judge told the killer that he was responsible for many aspects of his wife's mental illness.

Addressing the motive for the murder, she told Venables: "I am sure you killed Brenda Venables to remove her from your life and the complications she may have presented to you in any divorce proceedings.

"There is no doubt an element of greed and selfishness."

Venables showed no emotion throughout the judge's lengthy sentencing remarks, but could be heard shouting "no" repeatedly after he was taken out of the courtroom towards the cells.

The pensioner previously attempted to blame serial killer Fred West for his wife's murder but was found guilty.

His legal team had suggested Mrs Venables may have killed herself "or met with or encountered someone who wished her harm".

Jury members deliberated for 16 hours and 43 minutes over four days before deciding on the outcome.

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In a joint victim impact statement submitted to the court, the family of Mrs Venables said: "Brenda's disappearance was devastating for her parents who were in their 80s.

"Brenda was their main carer, shopping and looking after them, so the impact on them was both emotional and practical.

"They just couldn't understand how Brenda could simply disappear. Her father Harold longed for her return and never gave up hope.

"He died heartbroken two-and-a-half years later."

The family statement added: "The horrendous circumstances in which she was found have been very difficult for her whole family to come to terms with.

"The thought that Brenda lay there for over 37 years undiscovered whilst the septic tank continued to be used is simply unthinkable.

"We will never be able to forgive David Venables as a family for what he did. It's impossible to come to terms with the fact that Brenda's life was taken by the very person who should have loved and protected her."