THE MAN accused of stabbing Thornbury vicar the Rev John Suddards and a former primary school teacher to death had made threats to kill an elderly woman, a court heard.

A jury of eight men and four women was told this week Stephen Farrow, 48, had a previous conviction for aggravated burglary at an address in Heath Road, Stourbridge, in the West Midlands back in 1994.

Bristol Crown Court heard the owner, Stella Crow, who was 77 at the time but has since died, opened her front door to a man in his 20s. He initially said he was meeting one of her lodgers. He followed Ms Crow into the house where he threatened her with 12-inch blade knife and bragged about having killed before.

Edward Burgess, prosecuting, said the intruder demanded to go into one of the rooms. Ms Crow shouted for help, but the man said he knew nobody was at home.

In her statement, parts of which are disputed by the defence counsel, Ms Crow said: "He asked for money and jewellery. Then he said that if anyone came in, he would kill me and the dogs. He said: 'I have killed before.'

"He was holding the knife above my head in a stabbing stance."

Farrow admits the manslaughter of Mr Suddards between February 12 and 15 but has pleaded not guilty to murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He also denies the murder of Betty Yates between January 1 and 5.

Mr Suddards was found stabbed to death at his vicarage on Tuesday, February 14.

Yesterday, Monday, October 8, Farrow refused to come out of the cells and sit in court.

Judge Mr Justice Field told the jury he had a right not to attend and urged members not to hold his decision against him.

He said: "You will see the defendant is not present in court. In fact he is in the building and has been seen by his lawyers. He has told them he does not want to be present in court today. This is his right.

"You should not hold this against him. He is represented by experienced counsel and I am content the trial can continue in his absence."

The court heard a swab taken from the back of Mrs Yates' left hand, found at the scene, represented a "one-in-a-billion match'' as a mixture of DNA belonging to the woman and Farrow.

Michael Fitton QC, also prosecuting, said forensic evidence, including links to the boots worn by Farrow at the time of his arrest in February, connected all three cases.

The jury then heard from Linda Probert, who was walking along the banks of the River Severn with Julia Sealey, near Mrs Yate’s cottage, on the day the widow was killed when she spotted a "man on a mission" carrying a big backpack.

Mrs Probert went on to identify defendant Stephen Farrow as the man that had passed them.

The trial continues.