Farmer denies killing wife whose body was found in septic tank 37 years after she vanished

A retired farmer whose wife’s body was found in a septic tank has denied murdering her.

David Venables is accused of killing Brenda Venables, who was reported missing from the couple’s then home in Bestmans Lane, Kempsey, Worcs., in 1982.

Mrs Venables was 48 at the time she went missing from her home, called Quaking Farm.

In 2019, police discovered human remains in the cesspit at the farmhouse she shared with her husband.

Her disappearance sparked a search although West Mercia Police did not open a murder investigation until the bones of an adult woman were found by maintenance workers who were draining the tank at the couple’s former home.

The bones were later identified as belonging to Mrs Venables.

Mr Venables, who now lives in a bungalow half-a-mile away was arrested on suspicion of murdering Mrs Venables.

He was charged in June this year.

Mark Paul, head of the complex casework unit, said: “The decision to authorise the charge against the defendant was made after careful consideration of all the available evidence of this complex case and determining that a prosecution is required in the public interest.

“The alleged offences occurred between May 2 1982 and May 5 1982.

“The function of the CPS is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether criminal charges are appropriate.

“Criminal proceedings are now active, and there must be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could prejudice these proceedings.”

On Tuesday, Mr Venables appeared at Worcester Crown Court where he pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife between May 2 and May 5, 1982.

He spoke only to confirm his name, date, of birth, address and plea.

Mr Venables was granted conditional bail and ordered to return to court for his six week trial which will start on June 6 next year.

In a statement, her family said: “The disappearance of Brenda devastated our family. She was kind and caring and has been greatly missed.

“We, her surviving family, are thankful that Brenda was found and that we were able to lay her to rest with her parents in a place of security, calm and dignity.

“The family would now request that our privacy is respected so that we can come to terms with recent developments and grieve in peace.”

Forensic officers were seen scouring the farmland and Venables’ new home in July 2019 after the shock discovery was made.

The force launched an “unexplained death” inquiry and linked it to the disappearance of the farmer’s wife.

In May 1982, the Worcester Evening News ran a story about Mrs Venables going missing two days earlier from her home in Bestmans Lane.

The article described police using a helicopter to search the banks of the nearby River Severn.