How man hid wife’s remains in septic tank for nearly 40 years

An 89-year-old retired pig farmer who killed his wife so he could continue a longstanding affair hid her remains in a septic tank for nearly 40 years, a court has heard.Photograph: Jacob King/PA

David Venables is on trial for the murder of his wife, Brenda Venables, whom he reported missing on 4 May 1982.

Her remains were discovered in 2019 in a septic tank behind the house the couple had lived in, and Venables was charged with her murder in June 2021.

Police investigations at the time, which included using a helicopter to scour the local area, searching rivers, making door-to-door inquiries and speaking with friends and family, revealed no trace of Brenda’s whereabouts. She had been suffering with depression prior to her disappearance, and some assumed she had taken her own life.

Her remains were discovered 37 years after she went missing, after Venables sold his house on Quaking House Farm, in Kempsey, Worcestershire to his nephew, who had the septic tank emptied in 2019.

Bones had been found in the tank on two previous occasions but were assumed to be animal bones and discarded. However, when a human skull was discovered, the finding was reported to the police. DNA testing confirmed bones found in the tank belonged to Brenda, who was 48 years old at the time of her disappearance, and scraps of clothes found were consistent with styles available at the time.

Burrows said Venables had wanted his wife “out of the way” so he could continue an affair with Lorraine Styles, whom he had met in 1967 when she was working as a carer for Venables’ mother. The pair conducted an on-off relationship for more than 14 years, which Brenda had become aware of, the court heard.

In 1981 Venables promised Styles he was going to divorce his wife so they could start a new life together, Burrows said. “He wanted her out of the way: he wanted to resume his longstanding affair with another woman,” Burrows said. “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 for nearly 40 years, it was the perfect place and he got away with murder.”

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