Police failed to launch 1982 search for missing farmer's wife for 24 hours, court hears

Worcester Crown Court

The 1982 police searches for a vanished farmer's wife whose husband is accused of murdering and dumping her in a septic tank were delayed for 24 hours, Worcester Crown Court has heard.

Retired farmer David Venables, 89, is said by prosecutors to have "got away with murder" for nearly 40 years by allegedly killing his wife Brenda Venables, shortly after rekindling a "long-standing affair".

The remains of Mrs Venables, 48, were found in the underground cesspit at the former marital home in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in 2019.

Venables later suggested to officers that infamous serial killer Fred West may have had something to do with the disappearance.

David Venables, seen arriving at court. He denies the charges against him. Credit: File

At Venables' trial on Friday, a retired West Mercia Police superintendent revealed searches for missing Mrs Venables were held up after a constable advised Venables to "report it later, if she had (still) not returned".

Venables had gone to the police station in Kempsey village some time on the morning of May 4, 1982, and, following the officer's advice, did not try again to report his wife missing until 7.30pm that same day, when it was logged.

By then it was "too late" to mount a full search in daylight for Mrs Venables, according to then superintendent James Ashley - although partial local searches of the farmhouse did start that evening.

Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, denies murdering his wife in 1982. The trial, which is scheduled to last six weeks, continues.

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