An 86-year-old farmer arrested on suspicion of murder after human remains were found in a septic tank 37 years after his wife disappeared has been released under investigation.
Detectives believe the remains are those of David Venables’s wife Brenda, who disappeared from the couple’s then home in Kempsey in 1982.
Nearly four decades on, a body was found in the septic tank of the farm in village on July 12, prompting West Mercia Police to launch a murder investigation.
On Tuesday, detectives arrested the pensioner in connection with the inquiry and officers spent much of yesterday at the bungalow where Mr Venables now lives in the village.
This morning, they were seen searching a Kia Ceed estate car parked on his driveway.
Retired farmer David Venables pictured at his home in Kempsey, Worcestershire, on July 18. His wife vanished from the couple’s former home in 1982
An aerial view of the house and cesspit (centre bottom between trees) in Kempsey where the body was found earlier this month
Police were today seen searching a car which was on the driveway of Mr Venables’ home
Police remain outside Mr Venables’ home this morning. He has been released from custody
This morning, a police spokesman said: ‘Police investigating the discovery of female human remains in Kempsey, Worcestershire, on Friday 12 July have released a man under investigation.
‘The investigation is currently ongoing and officers are exploring various lines of inquiry.’
The discovery on July 12 came nearly 37 years after she mysteriously disappeared, and officers had since been investigating whether the bones were those of Mrs Venables, who went missing aged 48.
The pensioner used to run a nursery and had a piggery at the farm where the bones were found. It was sold to a relative for £467,000 five years ago and he moved into the bungalow nearby. The couple were not thought to have any children.
Yesterday, police said that although detectives are still awaiting DNA results, ‘the general circumstances lead us to believe’ that the remains are likely to be those of Mrs Venables.
Police are searching the current home of Mr Venables. Officers wearing gloves could be seen inside the property yesterday and today.
The force would not be drawn on activity at the scene other than to say it was ‘a line of investigation’.
Villagers said body parts were discovered in a bag in a cesspit being drained during routine maintenance.
The discovery of remains was made in the village of Kempsey in Worcestershire on July 12
A newspaper cutting in the Worcester News reporting Mrs Venables’s disappearance in 1982
Mr Venables now lives about a mile away from the farmhouse where the remains were found
Police have dismissed speculation the remains may be of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, who vanished in nearby Pershore four years later in 1986.
Earlier this month, a relative of Mrs Venables said: ‘We have had no developments for 37 years. To suddenly be confronted with this major development is quite a lot to process.
‘Brenda’s bank account remained untouched and there were no positive sightings of her after she disappeared.’
A local resident said: ‘When the wife disappeared it was big news here. Police searched my outbuildings and deployed tracker dogs.
‘There was a suggestion that she may have ended up in the River Severn, which is only a few fields away from their farmhouse.’
An officer leaves David Venables’s house in Kempsey, Worcestershire, yesterday
Two officers leave the bungalow in Kempsey yesterday following the arrest of Mr Venables
After the disappearance of Mrs Venables, the case was treated as a search for a missing person and did not become a murder inquiry.
Mr Venables sold the farmhouse to a relative for £467,000 five years ago and now lives in the bungalow around a mile away.
In May 1982, the Worcester Evening News ran a story on 48-year-old Mrs Venables going missing from her home in Bestmans Lane.
Her husband said: ‘I just woke up to find that she had gone. She has never done anything like this before and I haven’t the faintest idea what has happened to her.’
Some years ago Mrs Venables’s name was added to her parents’ gravestone at St Michael’s church in Rushock, recording her year of death as 1982.
A family source said it was a way of remembering her despite the absence of a body.
West Mercia Police officers search David Venables’s house today in Kempsey after the arrest