Pig farmer got away with murder for 40 years by dumping wife’s body in septic tank, court told

An 89-year-old retired pig farmer “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years after dumping his wife in a septic tank while having an extramarital affair, a jury heard.

David Venables denies murdering his “prim and proper” wife Brenda between 2 and 5 May, 1982.

Michael Burrows QC, opening the prosecution case at Worcester Crown Court on Monday, said Mr Venables reported his wife missing at Worcester police station on 4 May that year.

A police investigation failed to find any trace of Ms Venables and “some people thought she had committed suicide,” the barrister said.

In 2019, Mr Venables sold the Quaking House Farm, off Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, Worcestershire, where the couple had lived since 1961, to his nephew. It was in July of that year that contractors, clearing out the septic tank in what was once a “rough”, overgrown and “secluded” area, found the skeletal remains of his wife.

Mr Burrows told the court: “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 added: “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 attacked and killed her and hid her body in the septic tank, which was hidden from view and which so few people knew about.”

Mr Burrows alleged that Mr Venables had killed his wife as “he wanted her out of the way” to continue his “long-standing affair with another woman”.

The barrister told the court: “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.”

Newspaper clipping from the Worcester News reporting Brenda Venables’ disappearance in 1982

(Worcester News/SWNS)

Mr Venables had been in an on-off relationship with his mother’s former carer Lorraine Styles in the period leading up to his wife’s disappearance, an affair the cout heard began “around 1967”.

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 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.

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.

“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.”

Mr 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 trial, scheduled to last six weeks, continues.

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