A man accused of murdering of a vicar and a retired teacher carried out a burglary in which a note threatening to "kill Christian scum" was pinned to the table with knives, a court heard.

Stephen Farrow, 48, admits the manslaughter of Rev John Suddards but denies murdering the clergyman between February 12 and 15 this year on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

His also denies the murder of Betty Yates between January 1 and 5 this year. Both victims were found stabbed to death in their homes.

Opening the case, prosecutor Michael Fitton QC told the jury of eight men and four women at Bristol Crown Court that Farrow, of no fixed address, has admitted a separate charge of burgling Vine Cottage in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, between December 21 last year and January 3 this year.

Mr Fitton told the jury a note was found on the kitchen table following the burglary that read: "Be thankful you did not come back or I would have killed you, you Christian scum. I f**king hate God."

The prosecutor told the jury: "There are two charges for you to decide upon. They relate to different individuals and different places.

"The first is the murder of Betty Yates between the 1st and 5th of January this year. Betty Yates was found stabbed to death at her home in Worcestershire by police officers on the 4th January. The last time any of her friends or family saw her alive was late afternoon on Monday 2nd January. The defendant has pleaded not guilty to that count. He denies killing her. He denies any responsibility for her death at all."

Mr Fitton added: "Count two is the murder of Reverend John Suddards. The Reverend Suddards was found stabbed to death by police officers on February 14.

"The last time any of his friends or family saw him alive was late afternoon on February 13. The defendant pleaded not guilty to that charge, but there is a significant difference in his case. Stephen Farrow admits he killed the Reverend John Suddards, what he denies is the charge of murder, he will only admit a charge of manslaughter."

High Court judge Mr Justice Field is presiding over the trial, which is estimated to last up to six weeks.