THE man accused of murdering retired teacher Betty Yates refused to come up from the cells and sit in court today.

Stephen Farrow, aged 48, has denied any involvement in the 77-year-old's death.

Mrs Yates was found stabbed to death at her cottage in Bewdley on Wednesday, January 4.

Farrow admits the manslaughter of the Rev John Suddards in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, between February 12 and 15 on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies murdering the clergyman.

Farrow, of no fixed address, also admits burgling another property, Vine Cottage in Thornbury over the Christmas and New Year period.

Trial judge Mr Justice Field told the jury of eight men and four women at Bristol Crown Court: "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.

"I will give you further directions about this in due course."

The jury will hear from the first live witnesses in the case about the death of Mrs Yates, who was found stabbed to death at the bottom of her stairs.

The court previously heard that forensic evidence links Farrow to the murders of Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates, as well as the burglary of a property in which a note was found threatening to kill "Christian scum".