Husband David Venables will spend the rest of his life behind bars after workers accidentally found him in his old home.
But who was Brenda Venables and how was the mystery solved?
Brenda, then 23, met David Venables in 1955 at an event for young farmers. Brenda came from the small Worcestershire village of Rushock in the Wyre Forest District, not far from Kempsey where David lived.
They married on June 1, 1960 and honeymooned in Jersey before moving to the newly built Quaking House Farm in February 1961. The property offered stunning views of the Malvern Hills in a rural area south of Kempsey.
Devoted wife Brenda helped deliver flowers from the farm’s nursery, but most of her time was spent looking after David. She was popular and praised by all farm workers and was considered “very primitive and decent.”
Brenda cautiously chose not to express the loneliness she felt in her loveless marriage. Mrs Venables’ medical history revealed that she suffered from depression due to her husband’s multiple affairs and inability to conceive children. She reportedly told her psychiatrist that she and her husband had not had sex since 1969 and did not share a bed.
Two months before her disappearance, Brenda felt her situation was so hopeless that she developed “suicidal tendencies” and contacted the Samaritans. But a few weeks later, she told her doctors she was feeling better. David was annoyed by her visit to the clinic and stopped her from going to the hospital.
In early May 1982, Brenda came down with the flu and fell down the stairs, injuring her leg, which was subsequently bandaged from ankle to knee. She had bad ankles, couldn’t walk far and suffered from arthritis.
Brenda was reported missing on May 4, 1982 by her husband David.
When Brenda’s husband David reported her missing in 1982, a large-scale search of her farm and surrounding area found no information. But the investigation into the missing person remained open because of rumors that she had taken her own life.
Brenda’s parents, Harold and Winifred, and her two sisters, Jane and Rita, were devastated by her disappearance. Brenda was her parents’ primary carer, so the impact on her was both emotional and practical. Brenda’s name was inscribed on her parents’ gravestones at St. Michael’s Church in Rushock. Her year of death is recorded as 1982.
Tragically, it would be nearly four decades before her family learned the truth.
In July 2019, workers found bone and hair fragments while clearing a blocked septic tank at Quaking House Farm in Kempsey, Worcester. Forensic examination revealed that the bones belonged to Brenda. All that was left of her was her skull and a few strands of hair.
The discovery irrefutably linked her husband to the murder.
After David’s trial, at which he was found guilty, Brenda’s family said: “If Brenda had never met her killer, we can imagine that her cheerful and kind nature would have led her to much joy and happiness as an adult.”
“She would have continued her many friendships with Young Farmers and beyond. Her parents would have been spared the endless wait for her return and would have been comforted if she had continued to look after them.
“We can imagine how much the lives of her two sisters would have been enriched by Brenda’s presence and her quiet joy in their company.
“We continue to miss Brenda and will never forget her. Their qualities live on in our family. After 40 long years, we pray that you can finally rest in peace, Brenda.”
Watch our True Crime UK documentary where Mark Williams-Thomas confronts the killer on the doorstep of his home, almost 40 years after he killed his wife and buried her remains
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