Stephen Farrow trial: Killing of vicar John Suddards was ritualistic
IT was like a scene from the Da Vinci Code.
A murder trial has heard that the body of Thornbury vicar John Suddards was found lying in a pool of blood, with a series of objects laid on and around him.
A copy of the Bible was on his chest, open at the Epistle of Jude with the pages face down.
A kitchen knife had been placed by his left arm, Bristol Crown Court heard.
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To the left of his body was a canvas picture of Christ on the cross, while to the right was a large mirror in which the picture could be seen from where the Rev Suddards' body lay.
The jury heard party popper streamers had been discharged over the vicar's body and next to it was broken china and food, including a half-eaten apple.
Michael Fitton QC, opening the case for the prosecution, said further items, collected by Mr Suddards' killer from throughout the vicarage, included a fixed penalty notice, a magazine showing pictures of men, a calendar showing a man and a condom packet. There were also "homosexual DVDs", underwear and silver rings.
Homeless Stephen Farrow, 48, admits the manslaughter of St Mary's Church vicar Mr Suddards, 59, in February but denies murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility through mental disorder.
He also denies the murder of 77-year-old retired teacher Betty Yates at her home in Worcestershire in January.
But the court heard yesterday that he admitted burgling another home in Thornbury, leaving behind a chilling message for the occupiers.
Mr Fitton said that between December 21 last year and January 3 this year a break-in occurred at a cottage next to St Mary's Church cemetery.
He told the court the intruder forced a back window and "trashed" the home, stealing jewellery, a gold watch and a radio.
The burglar even helped himself to food and drink, which was left half-eaten on the kitchen table.
Alongside was a note, pinned to the table using two kitchen knives.
Mr Fitton said: "It was written in a curious, disguised style of squiggly writing.
"It said: 'Be thankful you did not come back or we would have killed you, Christian scum'."
The court heard the message, which went on to declare that the writer hated God, meant nothing to householders Alan and Margaret Pinder, who had been away for Christmas and New Year and were not overtly religious.
Crime scene investigators detected a boot print on a magazine on the floor, which forensic scientist Patrick O'Shea later linked to Farrow's footwear.
The jury also heard Farrow may well have left low-level DNA on the handle of the large kitchen knife used to pin down the note.
Mr Fitton said Mr Suddards' body was found by builders on February 15.
A postmortem examination revealed he had been stabbed in the neck the previous day and suffered wounds which cut his jugular vein and also penetrated his spine and heart.
Evidence suggested the killer stayed the night "comfortably" at the vicarage after arranging the body, drinking the vicar's Kronenbourg 1664 lager and watching a DVD of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark on his TV.
He then left, with the curtains drawn.
Mr Fitton said: "He killed the Reverend Suddards and watched him die. He stayed in the house to re-arrange the body.
"What was the purpose? We say he did what he did with what he found after he killed him."
He added the items discovered at the scene were intended to "harm the reputation and memory" of the clergyman.
The jury was shown stills taken from CCTV footage of Farrow walking towards Thornbury police station the next day, then doubling back on himself. He was recorded taking the early 6.15am bus from Thornbury to Bristol and travelled on to Weston- super-Mare and Weymouth.
The court heard he took Mr Suddards' Citizen watch and mobile phone.
On February 18 he used the phone to text the reverend's friend, Elizabeth Bendrey, with the message: "RIP Mr Suddards. Pervert."
Farrow then stayed at a friend's home but she contacted police when she realised he was wanted.
He was arrested in Folkestone, Kent, on February 19 and police found the vicar's DNA in blood on Farrow's trousers, jacket and knife.
Mrs Yates had also been stabbed in the neck and her jugular vein severed, the court heard.
The case continues.