Around 95% of properties in the UK have a mains drainage connection – waste water from toilets, showers, sinks and washing machines flow into a nearby main sewer. Charges are paid to a local water and sewage company.
The remaining 5% of properties, typically not situated near a main sewer, have their own self-contained off mains drainage system. This is usually a tank, which would either be a:
- Septic tank
- Sewage treatment plant
A man has been found guilty of murdering his wife 40 years ago in Kempsey, Worcestershire. David Venables, 89, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, was found guilty today (Friday 15 July) at Worcester Crown Court.
He will be sentenced on Wednesday 20 July at 2pm. In May 1982 Venables reported his 48-year-old wife Brenda missing. A missing person investigation was launched by West Mercia Police, which included searches of the local area, including the river.
The case continued as a missing person inquiry until July 2019 when routine maintenance of the septic house at the Kempsey home where the couple had lived uncovered human remains. A murder investigation was launched and, through DNA testing, the remains were identified as Brenda. Due to the condition of Brenda’s remains, the cause of her death was unable to be established.
During the five-week trial, the court heard that the couple were in an unhappy marriage and outlined the 14-year affair he had with another woman. It was found that, between 3 and 5 May 1982, David killed Brenda and hid her body in the septic tank before reporting her missing. Speaking after the verdict today Brenda’s nieces and nephews said: “We are relieved that today, after a wait of 40 years, at last there is justice for Brenda. Venables can no longer get away with having murdered his wife, the hiding of her body, and all his deceit, lies and fabrications.”
They spoke of their wish that Brenda had been able to leave the marriage and emphasised that there are “good people are out there, who can and will help” those who are subjected to domestic abuse. They also expressed their sincere thanks to the “many people who have worked hard over the last three years to bring about justice for Brenda” stating:
“Thank you to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, homicide support, the witnesses in this case, the barristers, the jury, the judge, and all the staff at Worcester Crown Court for all your time and effort leading up to today’s conclusion. “Our heartfelt thanks to the member of the public who found her remains three years ago. And thank you to our family and friends for your support and understanding as the search for justice for Brenda increasingly took over our lives in the last three years.”
PC Peter Sharrock, who took part in police searches, told Worcester Crown Court the tank was apparently overlooked.
The jury heard a “high profile” search for 48-year-old Mrs Venables involved dogs, boats and a helicopter who checked waterways, fields, woods and farm buildings.
But Mr Sharrock, a retired West Mercia Police officer, said he was not aware any officers searched the chamber, adding: “I certainly never took part in searching the septic tank.
“I walked past it to get to the river area for searches.”
He added: “Nobody mentioned searching the tank.”
Mr Sharrock described how media coverage about the discovery of human remains triggered a memory of what he now knew to have been the cesspit.
In a statement read to court, he said: “As soon as I saw an aerial view of the site, I remembered that I’d seen then, what I saw now.”
He added: “I recall seeing a lump of concrete in the yard of the farmhouse.
“The picture in the news showed the area now surrounded by trees and bushes.”
Giving evidence in the witness box, Mr Sharrock was asked by Mr Venables’ QC Timothy Hannam about more details of the concrete-topped tank.
Mr Hannam asked: “How far were you from it in 1982, when you saw it?”
“Probably about 20 to 30 metres away,” the retired officer replied.
Asked why he did not go over to the septic tank, Mr Sharrock said having grown up in city areas, a non-mains sewerage system “wasn’t something I knew about”.
“We had been directed to the woodland, and we were just on our way to that area.
“At the time, it just looked like a pad [area] of concrete and I didn’t pay it any attention.
“The word is hindsight, really.”
Mr Venables, of Elgar Drive, Kempsey, denies murdering his wife between 2 May 2 and 5 May 1982.
Speaking on behalf of West Mercia Police following today’s guilty verdict Detective Sergeant James Beard said: “We very much welcome the verdict and that justice has now been done. “The terrible truth is that Brenda was killed by the person who was meant to care for her most. He then let her family and friends go for so long not knowing what happened to her; they were robbed of a sister and auntie, and left without closure for 40 years.
“We cannot begin to imagine the pain that must have caused them and I’d like to commend them for the courage and dignity they have shown throughout the investigation and the court proceedings.” We, Brenda’s nieces and nephews, are relieved that today, after a wait of 40 years, at last there is justice for Brenda. David Venables can no longer get away with having murdered his wife, the hiding of her body, and all his deceit, lies and fabrications.
Firstly, we would like to sincerely thank the many people who have worked hard over the last three years to bring about justice for Brenda. Thank you to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, homicide support, the witnesses in this case, the barristers, the jury, the judge, and all the staff at Worcester Crown Court for all your time and effort leading up to today’s conclusion.
Our heartfelt thanks to the member of the public who found her remains three years ago. And thank you to our family and friends for your support and understanding as the search for justice for Brenda increasingly took over our lives in the last three years.
We would especially like to mention DC David Jennings, the Officer in the Case (OIC), and Family Liaison Officer (FLO) for most of this case. Very many thanks for your hard work and commitment to this case as the OIC and your extraordinary emotional intelligence as the FLO.
We feel utter horror and despair that Brenda was murdered. She was no harm to anyone, being a gentle and increasingly quiet woman. We’ll never know how she died or how much she suffered. We pray her death was quick.
The torment of her body being found in the septic tank of her house will never leave us. It haunts our nights. We cannot come to terms with her being put in such a repulsive and shocking place. And then, by continuing to use the septic tank, her murderer dishonoured her dead body every day for 30 years after murdering her.
Venables robbed Brenda of the second half of her life and robbed her of any dignity in death. By concealing Brenda’s remains, he made her family live through the hell of not knowing what had happened to her, and robbed the family of the opportunity to bury Brenda for over 37 years. In that time, many close family members have died.
Other women were hurt by Venables’ shockingly repugnant attitude to women. Brenda knew about his affairs during their marriage.
In 1982 the attitude to missing women was different. In this case, Brenda’s husband was seen as her keeper. There was no murder inquiry for 37 years, just a missing person investigation. The details of this case have highlighted substantial progress in those 40 years, both in the professionalism, practices and methods of police investigations, and societal attitudes to women.
We wish that Brenda had been able to leave her marriage. Her suffering and sadness must have been great as her life with Venables became more and more miserable. She was betrayed by his adultery and numerous affairs. She was increasingly cut off from her friends and family. In those later years, her life was narrowly focussed on housework.
Venables’ control of her was absolute by the end, refusing her medical treatment in hospital and controlling every aspect of her life.
Coercive control was not a term used or understood in the 1970s and early 80s. We wish we had sensitively asked her about how life was for her. For many women ground down and controlled by someone else, leaving is an unobtainable fantasy. However, there are good people are out there, who can and will help.
Women are no longer necessarily financially dependent on a man, they can work and earn for themselves, giving them the freedom that Brenda could only dream about.
If Brenda had never met her murderer, we can imagine her cheerful and kind nature would have led her to much joy and happiness as an adult. She would have continued her many friendships, from Young Farmers and beyond.
Her parents would have been spared the unending wait for her return, and been comforted by her continued care of them. We can imagine how much the lives of her two sisters would have been enhanced by Brenda’s presence and her quiet enjoyment of their company. Both her sisters were successful women in their careers. Perhaps Brenda would have been like them. She liked to travel, and perhaps would have joined her two sisters on their many years of holidays together in retirement.
Brenda would have been the family beauty at the weddings of her five surviving nieces and nephews. We would have been so proud of her.
She would have taken great delight in her 10 great nieces and nephews, perhaps seeing herself reflected in the culinary skills of one, the polished beauty of another and the active empathy of a third. We continue to miss Brenda and we will never forget her. Her characteristics live on in our family.