Elderly Man Charged With Wife's Murder 39 Years After Her Disappearance

An elderly man has been charged with murdering his wife who disappeared nearly 40 years ago, just two years after her remains were found in a septic tank in the couple's former home.

In May, 1982, Brenda Venables was reported missing from the home she shared with her husband David Venables, now 88, located in Bestmans Lane, in Kempsey, Worcestershire, in England.

At the time of the disappearance, The Worcester Evening News reported that the local police department used helicopters to search the banks of the nearby River Severn for her body, but were unsuccessful, according to the Evening Standard.

Her disappearance remained unsolved for close to 40 years, before her remains were found in a septic tank in the couple's former home during routine maintenance work on July 12, 2019.

David Venables was then arrested in relation to her death, according to the BBC, as the West Mercia Police launched an "unexplained death" investigation and searched the bungalow where the couple lived at the time of Brenda Venables' disappearance.

Nearly two years after his former wife's remains were found, David Venables was charged with her murder, according to a statement released by West Mercia Police on Tuesday.

In a statement confirming the charge, Mark Paul, the head of the Complex Casework Unit at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), confirmed that the "alleged offences occurred between May 2 1982 and May 5 1982."

He said that "the decision to authorise the charge against the defendant was made after careful consideration of all the available evidence of this complex case and determining that a prosecution is required in the public interest."

However, Paul made it clear that "the function of the CPS is not to decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence, but to make fair, independent and objective assessments about whether criminal charges are appropriate.

"Criminal proceedings are now active, and there must be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could prejudice these proceedings."

David Venables is scheduled to appear at Worcester Magistrates' Court for the first time on June 15.

On Friday June 4, in Illinois, the Naperville Police Department announced the arrest of Barry Lee Whelpley, now 76, in connection to the death of 15-year-old Julie Ann Hanson in 1972.

The department confirmed in a press release that the arrest was made possible due to recent advancements in "DNA and genetic genealogy analysis."

Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said that cold cases are rarely ignored, writing that officers "continually investigated this case throughout those 49 years.

"We were all conscious of Julie's murder, looking for the killer. And we had Julie's picture on our desks and investigations for all these years."

Newsweek has contacted the Crown Prosecution Service and West Mercia Police for comment.

David Venables arrested for wife's murder
Shallow depth of field image taken of yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background. An elderly man has been charged with murdering his wife who disappeared in 1982, after her remains were found in a septic tank in the couple’s former home in 2019. carlballou/iStock / Getty Images Plus