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Farmer accused of murdering wife in 1982 ‘not one to show emotion’, 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 “gentleman farmer” accused of murdering and dumping his “prim and proper” wife in a septic tank has told a jury “I’m not a person to show emotion” after hearing evidence he appeared calm after her 1982 disappearance.

Retired David Venables, 89, is said by prosecutors to have “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years by disposing of wife Brenda Venables.

The remains of Mrs Venables, 48, were found in the underground cesspit at the former marital home, Quaking House Farm, in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in 2019.

The cover of the septic tank in Kempsey
The cover of the septic tank in Kempsey (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Worcester Crown Court has previously heard that Venables, then 49, had rekindled a “long-standing” affair he was having with his mother’s former carer, Lorraine Styles, months before his wife disappeared.

Venables has told the jury he “very much regretted” that affair.

He has previously claimed Gloucestershire serial killer Fred West may have been responsible for his wife’s death.

Venables, giving evidence on Thursday, said he searched for his spouse after he awoke to find her missing on May 4, 1982, reporting the disappearance to police later that afternoon.

His barrister Timothy Hannam QC asked about claims from police officers, who first arrived at the farmhouse, that Venables appeared “calm and emotionless” about his wife’s “mystery” disappearance.

Venables replied: “Well, I think I’ve never been one to show a lot of emotion – ever.

“I was very concerned about it, and very worried, but I’m not a person to show emotion.”

David Venables
David Venables in court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Earlier, the trial heard evidence read from the notes of a consultant psychiatrist Mrs Venables had been seeing in early 1982 for depression.

The physician recorded Venables was a “typical farmer – displaying little to no affection to his wife but showering praise on the family dog”.

Mr Hannam also asked Venables about accounts from some witnesses that “life went on” after his wife vanished, with the landowner replying that was right “up to a point”.

Venables said: “I had got a job to do… we just had to get on with what we were doing.”

He added: “It was a complete mystery to us where she’d gone.”

Venables also told jurors he never mentioned the septic tank to police search teams as it “never entered” his mind.

But he also claimed to have twice seen police searching the tank, which others have described as being located in “rough and wild” ground in the garden, a few dozen yards from the farmhouse’s back door.

Venables said sight of the tank was “virtually clear” from the Malverns-side of the house, and that on one occasion he “saw a policeman with a rod, prodding the tank”, several weeks after Mrs Venables went missing.

Venables said: “I saw him actually searching it.

“The policeman came to the door, said ‘I’ve searched the tank and I’m quite satisfied there’s nothing in there – but unfortunately I’ve dropped the lid in there’.”

Venables said he then replaced the access cover with a “paving slab” for safety, as there was a public footpath within a few feet of the tank, also adding “if it’s not sealed, you get a smell coming out of it”.

Mr Hannam asked Venables: “Did you kill your wife?”

Venables said: “No.”

“Did you put her body in the septic tank,” he was then asked.

“Never,” said Venables.

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