David Venables jailed for wife’s septic tank murder


A retired farmer who murdered his wife before concealing her remains in a septic tank has been jailed for life.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Brenda Venables vanished from the home she shared with her husband David in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in 1982.

Her remains were found inside the tank on the couple’s farm in 2019 and Venables was charged with her murder.

During his trial it was revealed Venables, now 89, killed his wife after rekindling a longstanding affair.

On Wednesday at Worcester Crown Court, High Court Judge Mrs Justice Tipples ruled he must serve a minimum of 18 years.

The pensioner had taken advantage of his wife’s depression to create a “carefully thought-out story” that she had left home in the middle of the night, apparently to take her own life, the judge told him.

Jurors heard how Venables had seemed emotionless when his wife of 22 years went missing and he continued to show no emotion throughout the trial.

A police investigation after Mrs Venables was reported missing on 4 May 1982 had failed to find any trace of her.

Her decayed remains were not discovered until July 2019, five years after Venables had moved out of Quaking House Farm where they had lived together.

The new owners wanted the tank serviced and an engineer discovered remnants of her clothing, a clump of hair and a human skull.

After tests determined the remains were those of Mrs Venables, her husband was charged with her murder.

During his trial, details of his double life were revealed as prosecutors told how he had been in a long-term on-off relationship with his mother’s carer Lorraine Styles since around 1967.

Despite her death in 2017, a statement Mrs Styles had given to police in 1984 was read to the court which described him as being “quite composed” about his wife going missing.

Jurors heard the evidence showed he had used a manhole cover to weigh down his wife’s body.

The judge also rejected defence claims that the killing had been carried out in the heat of the moment, telling Venables the whole process of disposing of the body in the septic tank, and then leaving no trace, must have required considerable planning.

“Your complete lack of respect for Brenda is obvious from your decision to dispose of her body in the septic tank,” Mrs Justice Tipples told him.

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

Addressing the motive for the killing, she said: “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.”

It took the jury 16 hours and 43 minutes over four days to convict Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, of Brenda’s murder.

After the retired farmer’s conviction, her family spoke of how they wished she had been able to leave her marriage.

“We feel utter horror and despair that Brenda was murdered,” they said. “She was no harm to anyone, being a gentle and increasingly quiet woman.

At the time of her disappearance, her devastated elderly parents never gave up hope that she would return, they said.

In a statement after the sentencing, her family said: “We recall her father Harold watching the garden path in hope of Brenda coming to see them.

“He died heartbroken two and a half years later.”

The thought Brenda lay undiscovered for more than 37 years while the septic tank continued to be used “is simply unthinkable,” they added.

Reading out the tribute on the family’s behalf, Det Con Claire Masters of West Mercia Police, said: “We will never be able to forgive David Venables for what he did and for not telling us the truth.”

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