English pig farmer killed wife, discarded body in septic tank 40 years ago, prosecutor says

KEMPSEY, England — British prosecutors argued on Monday that a philandering pig farmer killed his wife in 1982 and dumped her body in a septic tank on their former farm, where her bones were discovered by workers in the summer of 2019.

David Venables, 89, of Kempsey, is on trial in Worcester Crown Court for the May 1982 murder of Brenda Margaret Venables, whose remains were found on July 12, 2019, by workmen emptying a tank located among some trees on Quaking House Farm.

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According to the BBC, authorities allege that Venables, then 49, killed his 48-year-old wife in 1982 so he could rekindle a previous affair with his mother’s former caregiver.

“He wanted her out of the way. He wanted to resume his long-standing affair with another woman,” prosecutor Michael Burrows said in opening the Crown’s case. “He knew about the septic tank in its secluded location. It was for him almost the perfect hiding place.”

Burrows said the septic tank allowed Venables to be rid of his wife’s body without the risk of being seen dumping her somewhere else.

“And for nearly 40 years, it was the perfect place, and he got away with murder,” Burrows said.

According to police, David and Brenda Venables had lived on their 500-acre farm on Bestmans Lane, where he raised pigs and she ran a nursery, since 1961. Six years later, David Venables met Lorraine Styles, with whom he had an affair for the next three years.

In 1970, Styles found out that Brenda Venables had learned of the affair, the Worcester News reported. The women spoke, at which time Brenda Venables informed Styles of at least one other affair her husband had been involved in.

Styles ended the relationship and got married, but later divorced her husband, the newspaper reported.

She and David Venables resumed their affair in 1981, at which time Venables began talking about moving in with her at her home, Burrows told the court. According to the prosecutor, Styles ended another relationship the following February “in reliance on what David Venables had said to her.”

Meanwhile, Brenda Venables that same month told her psychiatrist that she was in a bad marriage.

“His notes indicate that she told him that she did not have a happy marriage and that she and David Venables had not had sexual intercourse since 1969,” Burrows said, according to the News.

Three months later, she vanished.

On May 4, 1982, David Venables went to Worcester police and reported that he awoke that morning to find his wife missing.

“She has never done anything like this before, and I haven’t the faintest idea what has happened to her,” Venables told the News two days after her supposed disappearance.

At the time, Venables said his wife had recently been depressed following “a recent bout of flu.” No sign of her was ever found, despite an air and land search by police, Venables and the couple’s neighbors.

Over the years, there was speculation that she had committed suicide and her body was simply never located.

That was until 2019, when David Venables’ nephew, who had bought the farm from his uncle, hired workmen to sort out a blockage that had been plaguing the septic system. Multiple media outlets, including the Guardian and the Mirror, reported that workers had previously cleared bones out of the tank twice before, but because of the size of the bones found, they assumed them to be from a small animal.

On the first occasion, a worker who believed the bones to be those of a chicken tossed them over a nearby row of hedges.

On the second occasion, in July 2018, the same thing happened.

“Again, (a worker) discarded the bones he found over the hedgerow,” Burrows told the court. “He also found some hair, which he now realizes may have been human hair.”

When the blockage caused problems a year later, a different company was hired to clear the tank. Worker Alistair Pitt began emptying the tank and found a “large clump of hair,” the prosecutor said.

“He says it is not unusual to find hair, but it was unusual to see the amount he found,” Burrows said.

Pitt also spotted what looked like a bag, which he fished out of the tank with a hoe. Inside were large bones, according to the prosecutor.

The worker used the same hoe to examine what appeared to be a large stone at the bottom of the tank.

It was a human skull.

“His words: ‘I had never been in this situation before, and I didn’t really know what to do, so I left it with the owner to sort out,’” Burrows said of Pitt.

Andrew Venables called police.

Along with the bones, authorities found a sweater, a bra and underwear that dated back to the 1960s to mid-1970s.

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Despite decomposition making it impossible to determine how Brenda Venables died, Burrows said it was “preposterous” to believe anyone other than her husband had killed her, or that she had died by suicide.

“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,” the prosecutor said, according to the Guardian.

Venables’ trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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