Septic tank murder allegation based on guesswork, says Farmers Defense Team

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The charge against a retired farmer accused of murdering his wife in 1982 is based on conjecture and speculation, his QC told a jury.

Solicitors for David Venables, 89, told Worcester Crown Court it would have been an ‘act of madness’ for him to have hidden his wife’s body in a cesspool near their marital home.

Prosecutors claim the pensioner murdered his wife Brenda and dumped her body in the reservoir at Quaking House Farm in Kempsey, Worcestershire, where it was discovered in 2019.

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

Venables, who previously claimed Gloucester serial killer Fred West may have been responsible for the death of his wife, told the trial he searched for her in vain after waking up to find her disappeared on May 4, 1982.

He reported his wife missing later the same day and claims police searched the tank during their initial enquiries.

In his closing speech to jurors on Friday, defense barrister Timothy Hannam QC questioned why Venables, now of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, would have sold the farm if he knew his wife’s body was there. inside the tank.

The barrister, who suggested Ms Venables’ death may have been a suicide, told the court: ‘It would have been an act of madness for him to put Brenda Venables’ body in his septic tank. It was way too close to my house.

Venables had someone else empty the tank at least once, had a contractor add an extra bedroom to it, and then sold the property in 2014, Mr Hannam said.

The QC claimed: ‘Everything he has done since is inconsistent with him putting Brenda in the septic tank.

“Who in his right mind would ask someone to empty a septic tank knowing that his wife’s body is there? Who the hell would do that?”

Urging the jury to return the ‘only fair verdict’ of not guilty, Mr Hannam said: ‘There was no direct evidence that Brenda Venables died or how her body got into the septic tank .

“The Crown’s evidence is circumstantial. We say it is based on a series of assumptions mixed with guesswork and speculation.

Mr Hannam said a friend of Ms Venables instinct at the time of her disappearance was that the 48-year-old could have drowned in a tank of water.

The QC told the jury: “It is far from unbelievable that she chose to kill herself in the septic tank and it must be unbelievable for you to dismiss that as a possibility.

“He (the tank) was very close to the house.”

A worker or bystander may have replaced the tank lid, Hannam suggested, because it poses a hazard when open.

“There was no suicide note, but so what,” Mr Hannam added. “In Brenda’s mind, there was an indifferent husband and no child to apologize to.

“Suicide, we say, cannot be dismissed out of hand.”

Mr Hannam said of the tank: ‘The Crown’s case is that no one else could have known.

“There were lots of trails near the farm and the septic tank. It’s not isolated at all.

“The village policeman, the first on the scene, remembered seeing a concrete slab or slab. It was not invisible.

“It was a major mistake for the Crown to claim it was by opening the case to you.”

Mr Hannam added: ‘The evidence does not support the case. It is true that there was no sign of breaking in but it is also true that there was no sign of disturbance.

The defense QC urged the jury to find that Ms Venables had left the house dressed rather than a nightie, as her clothes had been found with her skeleton inside the tank.

Mr Hannam added: “Was she woken up by a noise? Had she agreed to meet someone? Had she just gotten up in her morning depression and gone for a walk?

“We know she was deeply mentally ill at the time. It’s not beyond the realm of reason that she just walked out of the house that morning and killed herself or met or met someone who wished him harm.

“How after 40 years do you rule that out as an impossibility?”

In his closing remarks, Mr Hannam also asked the jury to look at the “comprehensive” police search in 1982, which involved a helicopter fitted with thermal imaging equipment.

Venables denies murder. The trial continues.

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