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Retired farmer accused of wife’s murder ‘calm’ about her disappearing, jury told

David Venables, 89, arrives at Worcester Crown Court (Jacob King/PA)
David Venables, 89, arrives at Worcester Crown Court (Jacob King/PA)

A retired pig farmer accused of murdering and dumping his wife in a septic tank in 1982 was “calm” about his “prim and proper” spouse’s disappearance, his former mistress said.

David Venables, 89, is said by prosecutors to have “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years by disposing of Brenda Venables after rekindling a “long-standing affair”, a court has heard.

Ms Venables’ remains were found in the underground chamber at the former marital home, Quaking House Farm, in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in 2019.

On Wednesday, jurors at Worcester Crown Court heard details of Venables’ “on-off” 14-year affair with Lorraine Styles.

Human remains found in septic tank
The cover of the septic tank at the property in Kempsey, Worcestershire where Brenda Venables’ remains were found in 2019 (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Ms Styles died of lung cancer in 2017, the jury was told, but gave a statement to police in 1984 in which she gave a flavour of their relationship.

The pair met in 1967 when then-married Ms Styles, a mother of three, was a carer for Venables’ mother.

They began a sexual relationship after “sociable” Venables began giving her lifts home, she said in her statement – read to the court by prosecuting QC Michael Burrows.

She said Venables visited “three or four nights a week” and that the relationship was “quite serious”.

But, fearing he was seeing someone else, she became “depressed” and tried to take her own life, leading to a stay in hospital.

Weeks later, after learning Mrs Venables knew of the affair, Ms Styles went to the farmhouse “to clear the air”.

“We discussed the situation quite rationally; there were no raised voices,” she said.

“Brenda pointed out David had no intention of leaving the house or family and my affair had not been the only time – she intimated others (had happened).”

Ms Styles resumed a nursing career, thinking of Venables “as a thing of the past”.

But in 1973 or 1974, she arrived home and was “surprised to see David Venables waiting in a red Triumph outside”.

“He said he’d been looking for me about three months – and this is where our association started again,” said Ms Styles.

“In 1981, again I started having doubts about him and whether he had genuine feelings for me”, she added.

She met another man but “finished” the relationship after Venables’ “promises” to divorce his wife.

On May 5 1982, the day after Venables reported his wife missing to police, he rang Ms Styles.

“He seemed quite composed and suddenly told me his wife had disappeared the night before and he was phoning to let me know before I read it in the paper,” she said.

Ms Styles said: “He called round about two weeks later but didn’t mention it.

“I couldn’t understand how he was so calm about the whole episode. He just sat and watched TV.

“He started making advances to me and it was quite obvious he wanted me to have intercourse.”

Ms Styles said she refused but after a few weeks she, “like a fool”, continued the relationship.

Her doubts again resurfaced when she saw his car parked outside an address in Worcester.

“He came out the house accompanied by a female. They both got into his car… it was obvious this was the other woman I suspected he was seeing,” she said.
Later, over the phone, she claimed “he bluntly told me he could see nothing in common” with her.

“As far as I was concerned, that was the end of my 14-year relationship.”

Though the sexual relationship ended, Ms Styles and Venables continued to have contact virtually right up to her death.

After moving to nearby Droitwich, Ms Styles asked family to put a letter through Venables’ door in about 2014/15, asking for “some company”, the court heard.

Sally Wyllie, Ms Styles’ youngest daughter, recalled: “I heard him apologise for the way he treated her.”

Venables visited “every Friday after that”, until weeks before her death they had a row “about her eating” and he “didn’t visit again”.

Jurors also heard from retired West Mercia Police officer, Dick Schwab, who went to the farmhouse on May 4 1982 following Mrs Venables’ disappearance.

He claimed Venables “told us he and his wife had gone to bed during the previous evening and that sometime during the night she had got up”.

He said: “He described himself as being half asleep, and he didn’t see her again after that.”

Mr Schwab was told by Venables’ barrister Timothy Hannam QC that his client’s case was “he didn’t say that to you”.

Describing Venables’ manner in his meeting 40 years ago, Mr Schwab said: “It was very calm, very matter of fact,” he said.

“There was no great sign of any emotion, no wringing of hands, it was just a purely factual report about what had happened.”

Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, denies murdering his wife between May 2 and May 5 1982, and the trial, scheduled to last six weeks, continues.

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