Farmer accused of wife’s septic tank murder tells jury he ‘regretted’ affair

A “gentleman farmer” accused of murdering and dumping his wife in a septic tank “very much regretted” having an affair with another woman, he has told a jury.

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.

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.

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

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

Venables, giving evidence for the first time in his defence on Wednesday, told how he met his “good-looking” wife-to-be at Droitwich Winter Gardens, during a Worcester and Kidderminster Young Farmers club social in 1957, when he was 25 and she was 23.

He said that six years after marrying Mrs Venables on June 1 1960, he became “friendly” with Ms Styles, who also lived in Kempsey.

Ms Styles had initially worked at the family’s farm nursery, but became a carer for Venables’ mother and grandmother – and met the pig farmer when he started giving her lifts home.

Asked by his barrister, Timothy Hannam QC, if the relationship with Ms Styles became sexual, Venables replied: “Yes – which I very much regretted.”

Ms Styles, who has since died, said in a witness statement – previously read to the jury – that she and Venables had an affair lasting 14 years, from the late 1960s until 1982.

She claimed Venables had promised to leave his wife and live with her at her home in Worcester, and that he had spoken of divorcing Mrs Venables.

Mr Hannam asked: “Was Lorraine Styles someone for whom you would have left your wife?”

Venables said: “No, definitely not.

“Well, she was such a volatile temperament and I found that out many years ago, before then (his wife’s disappearance).”

Earlier describing Ms Styles to court, he said: “She was friendly enough but she had an erratic nature.

“Sometimes she was quite normal and then she’d be bad tempered and moody.”

He denied they had had what prosecutors described as a “long-standing” relationship, adding there were “very big gaps” when he would not see or speak with her.

He said they had contact around late 1982 – after Mrs Venables had disappeared – when Ms Styles turned up at the martial home.

Venables said: “She came to my house one day quite unannounced and said, ‘Now you’re on your own I can come live with you’.

“I said, ‘Well that’s never going to happen’.

“In fact she used a lot of verbal abuse to me, and got in her car, and drove away at great speed down the drive.”

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

Venables said he did not see Ms Styles “for a long time” after his wife disappeared in early May 1982.

But he claimed that when they did have contact they “just talked about what had happened and that was all”, denying they rekindled their sexual relationship, as Ms Styles had claimed.

Mr Hannam asked: “Did Lorraine have any plans for your relationship?”

Venables replied: “Obviously she would have been only too pleased if I’d gone with her but I’d had no intentions of ever doing that.”

He also claimed he and his wife’s relationship remained a sexual one and that they continued to share a bed, right up until she vanished.

The jury has heard evidence from notes made by Mrs Venables’ consultant psychiatrist, who she was seeing for treatment for depression in March 1982, saying the couple had not slept together since 1968 and had not shared a bed for three years.

Venables denied having any other extramarital affairs.

Recalling the night he last saw his wife, he said the family had been sowing potatos in a field on May 3 – a bank holiday Monday.

Earlier, Mrs Venables “seemed to be enjoying playing with the puppy” on the hearth rug and he noticed nothing unusual in her mood that evening, or after they went to bed.

But asked if she was “there next to you” when he awoke at 6.30am the following morning, he replied: “No, not when I woke up.”

Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, denies murdering his wife between May 2 and May 5 1982. The trial continues, and is scheduled to last six weeks.