A homeless drifter will die in prison after being convicted of the murders of a vicar and a retired teacher.

Stephen Farrow, 48, was found unanimously guilty of the murder of the Rev John Suddards, 59, and guilty by a majority of 11-1 of the murder of Betty Yates, 77. Both were viciously attacked in their own homes six weeks apart by Farrow.

Farrow, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were returned, was told by a judge at Bristol Crown Court that he had committed two "horrific" murders and would never be released.

Mr Justice Field said: "Stephen Farrow, you have been found guilty of two horrific murders. On January 2 this year you somehow got into Betty Yates's home in the afternoon or early evening. You struck Mrs Yates from behind with a heavy walking stick, hitting her hard at least twice to the back of the head with the rounded, bulbous handle. You hit her with such force that the walking stick splintered.

"At the vicarage on February 13 Rev Suddards let you in and in his hallway you attacked him with knives. He tried to defend himself by using his hands. On your account to Dr Rogers, when the reverend tried to get back up, you kicked him back to the floor."

The judge continued: "The sentence for murder is a mandatory life sentence and in respect of each count I pass a life sentence. I am satisfied that in your case a whole life sentence is an appropriate sentence in each of these dreadful, horrific killings. In my judgement, you acted sadistically. To put a knife deep into the body of Betty Yates as she lay helpless on the floor, having arranged her head on the pillow, was an act of absolute sadism.

"You did that because you wanted to. She wasn't threatening you. You put that knife in her to have the pleasure of doing it. As for Reverend Suddards, you killed him - He was helpless. That conduct was clearly sadistic. Accordingly, there is no question in your case of the imposition of a minimum term."

The judge also passed a three-year sentence for burglary to run concurrently to the two life sentences. He also praised the families of both Mr Suddards and Mrs Yates for their dignity during the trial.

Mr Suddards's sister Hilary Bosworth said: "Today we have reached the end of the trial of Stephen Farrow. The verdict is - in my view - a just one, which reflects the gravity of the situation. My brother John was a good man, who dedicated his life to serving God and helping other people."

Mrs Yates, who was a widow, left behind two children, Hazel and David. Mr Yates said outside court: "We should all be relieved and thankful that Stephen Farrow is off the streets of Britain today. It is clear from his own words that had he not been caught he would have continued to kill others and leave more misery in his wake."