An 89-year-old retired pig farmer who murdered his wife 40 years ago and hid her body in a septic tank - and then tried to blame the crime on Fred West, has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.
David Venables had reported his wife Brenda, who was 48 at the time, missing to police in 1982 and told officers she had been depressed.
But detectives launched a murder probe after her remains were found in the septic tank in 2019 at the farmhouse the couple had shared in Kempsey, Worcestershire.
During his trial jurors were told he killed Brenda because he “wanted her out of the way” so he could resume a “long-standing” affair with nurse Lorraine Styles.
Venables was sentenced on Wednesday at Worcester Crown Court.
The sentence passed on David Venables means he would have to reach the age of 107 before he can even apply for parole.
What was said during the trial?
Venables had tried to blame Gloucester serial killer Fred West for his wife’s murder.
His legal team had claimed Mrs Venables may have left her marital home at Quaking House Farm and “either killed herself or met with or encountered someone who wished her harm.”
At the start of the trial, prosecutor Michael Burrows QC said Venables had “got away with murder” for nearly 40 years after dumping his wife in the septic tank close to Quaking House Farm.
Her skull and other bones were discovered during work to empty the underground chamber on 12 July, 2019, six years after Venables had sold the property.
Venables’ lawyers claimed during the trial that Mrs Venables may have left her marital home and “either killed herself or met with or encountered someone who wished her harm”.
The pensioner told jurors he had woken up in the morning to find his wife had vanished, but he was convicted of murdering her on either May 3 or May 4 1982.
Dismissing Venables’ defence as preposterous, Mr Burrows told the start of the trial: “The truth, say the prosecution, is that it was David Venables who killed her.
“He wanted her out of the way – he wanted to resume his long-standing affair with another woman, Lorraine Styles.
“He knew about the septic tank in its secluded location. It was for him almost the perfect hiding place.”
What was said during sentencing?
Passing sentence on David Venables, High Court Judge Mrs Justice Tipples said he 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 the retired pig farmer that 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.
She told the pensioner: “You killed Brenda Venables in her own home, where she was recuperating with an injured leg and suffering from depression. You were Brenda’s husband and she should have been able to trust you.
“Your complete lack of respect for Brenda is obvious from your decision to dispose of her body in the septic tank.
“The fact that is what you did with her body is disgusting and repulsive.”
Prior to the life term being imposed, defence barrister Timothy Hannam QC invited the court to consider if the defendant had killed his wife “in the heat of the moment” with a “fleeting” intention to kill.
The disposal of the body in the tank was indicative of a rushed and panicked attempt to cover up the crime, Mr Hannam said.
Mr Hannam added: “The simple fact of the matter is that he is 89 years old and whatever minimum term is imposed today he will die in prison.”
Describing the prospect of Venables living to 100 in prison as illusionary, Mr Hannam added: “Because of that reality it will be a whole life tariff in effect.
“That is a significant point, we submit, to make on his behalf.”
What has the family of Brenda Venables said?
In a joint victim impact statement submitted to the court, the family of Mrs Venables said: “Brenda’s disappearance was devastating for her parents who were in their 80s.
“Brenda was their main carer, shopping and looking after them, so the impact on them was both emotional and practical.
“They just couldn’t understand how Brenda could simply disappear. Her father Harold longed for her return and never gave up hope.
“He died heartbroken two-and-a-half years later.”
The family statement added: “The horrendous circumstances in which she was found have been very difficult for her whole family to come to terms with.
“The thought that Brenda lay there for over 37 years undiscovered whilst the septic tank continued to be used is simply unthinkable.
“We will never be able to forgive David Venables as a family for what he did. It’s impossible to come to terms with the fact that Brenda’s life was taken by the very person who should have loved and protected her.”