The White House Farm murders took place near the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex, England, during the night of 6-7 August 1985. Nevill and June Bamber were shot and killed inside their farmhouse, along with their adoptive daughter, Sheila Caffell, and Sheila's six-year-old twin sons, Daniel and Nicholas Caffell. The only surviving member of June and Nevill's immediate family was their adoptive son, Jeremy Bamber, then 24 years old, who said he had been at home a few miles away when the shooting took place.
The police at first believed that Sheila, diagnosed with schizophrenia, had fired the shots then turned the gun on herself. But weeks after the murders Jeremy Bamber's ex-girlfriend told police that he had implicated himself. The prosecution argued that, motivated by a large inheritance, Bamber had shot the family with his father's semi-automatic rifle, then placed the gun in his unstable sister's hands to make it look like a murder-suicide. A silencer the prosecution said was on the rifle would have made it too long, they argued, for Sheila's fingers to reach the trigger to shoot herself. Bamber was convicted of five counts of murder in October 1986 by a 10-2 majority, sentenced to a minimum of 25 years, and informed in 1994 that he would never be released. The Court of Appeal upheld the verdict in 2002.
Bamber protested his innocence throughout, although his extended family remained convinced of his guilt. Between 2004 and 2012, his lawyers submitted several unsuccessful applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. They argued that the silencer might not have been used during the killings, that the crime scene may have been damaged then reconstructed, that crime-scene photographs were taken weeks after the murders, and that the time of Sheila's death had been miscalculated.
A key issue was whether Bamber received a call from his father that night to say Sheila had "gone berserk" with a gun. Bamber said that he did, that he alerted police, and that Sheila fired the final shot while he and the officers were standing outside the house. It became a central plank of the prosecution's case that the father had made no such call, and that the only reason Bamber would have lied about it--indeed, the only way he could have known about the shootings when he alerted the police--was that he was the killer himself.
Maps, Directions, and Place Reviews
June and Nevill Bamber
Ralph Nevill Bamber (known as Nevill, born 8 June 1924, 61 when he died) was a farmer, former RAF pilot, and local magistrate at Witham Magistrates' Court. He and his wife, June (née Speakman, born 3 June 1924, also 61 when she died), had married in 1949 and moved into the Georgian White House Farm on Pages Lane, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, set among 300 acres of tenant farmland that had belonged to June's father. The Court of Appeal described Nevill as "a well-built man, 6' 4" tall and in good physical health". This became significant because Bamber's defence suggested that Sheila, a slim woman of 28, had been able to beat and subdue her father, something the prosecution contested.
Unable to have biological children, the couple adopted Sheila and Jeremy as babies; the children were not related to one another. June suffered from depression and had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, once in 1955 before she adopted Sheila, and again in 1958, months after the adoption, when she was given electroshock therapy. She was treated again in 1982 by Hugh Ferguson, a psychiatrist who later saw Sheila.
The Bambers were financially secure. There was the farmhouse, property in London, 300 acres of land and a caravan site. Their company, N. and J. Bamber Ltd, was worth ?400,000 (c. £1,057,000). In her will June left ?230,000 (c. £608,000 in 2016), and Nevill left ?380,000 (c. £1,004,000); Bamber was a major beneficiary of both wills. The couple gave the children a good home and private education, but June was intensely religious and tried to force her children and grandchildren to adopt the same ideas. She had a poor relationship with Sheila, who felt June disapproved of her, and June's relationship with Jeremy was so troubled that he had apparently stopped speaking to her. Sheila's ex-husband was concerned about the effect June was having on his sons. She made them kneel and pray with her, which upset him and the boys.
Daniel and Nicholas Caffell
Daniel and Nicholas Caffell (born 22 June 1979, six when they died) were born to Sheila and Colin Caffell, who married in 1977 and divorced in 1980. Colin was an art student when he met Sheila. Both parents were involved in the children's upbringing after the divorce, although the boys were briefly placed in foster care in London, in 1982 and 1983, because of Sheila's health problems. For several months before the murders, they had been living with Colin in his home in Kilburn, north London, not far from Sheila's home in Maida Vale.
A week-long visit to White House Farm had been arranged for the August at the Bambers' request; the plan was that the boys would visit their grandparents with Sheila before going on holiday to Norway with their father. Daniel and Nicholas were reluctant to stay at the farm. They disliked that June made them pray, and in the car on the way asked their father to speak to her about it. In addition Daniel had become a vegetarian and was worried about being forced to eat meat. When their father dropped them off at the house on 4 August, it was the last time he saw them. The boys are buried together in Highgate Cemetery. Sheila was cremated, and the casket with her ashes was placed in their coffin.
Sheila Jean "Bambs" Caffell (born 18 July 1957, 28 when she died) was born to the 18-year-old daughter of a senior chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her biological mother named her Phyliss, and gave her up to the Church of England Children's Society two weeks after the birth, at the insistence of the chaplain. She was placed in the Holy Innocents Sunnyside Nursery in Box, Wiltshire, from where, in October 1957, she was adopted by the Bambers and renamed Sheila Jean. The chaplain had known Nevill in the RAF and selected the Bambers from a list of prospective adopters.
Sheila was educated in the local St Nicholas Church of England Primary, then at private schools, first Maldon Court Preparatory School in Maldon, Essex, followed by Moira House Girls School in Eastbourne, Sussex, and Old Hall School in Hethersett, Norfolk. After school she attended secretarial college in Swiss Cottage, London. In 1974, when she was 17, she discovered she was pregnant by Colin Caffell. The Bambers arranged an abortion. Her relationship with her adoptive mother deteriorated significantly that summer, when June found Sheila and Colin sunbathing naked in a field. June reportedly started calling Sheila the "devil's child", which a psychiatrist identified as the trigger for Sheila's paranoid delusions about having been taken over by the devil.
Sheila continued with her secretarial course, then trained as a hairdresser, and briefly found work as a model with the Lucie Clayton agency, which included two months' work in Tokyo. She got pregnant again, and she and Colin married at Chelmsford Registry Office in May 1977 when Sheila was 20, but she lost the baby at six months. The Bambers bought the couple a garden flat in Carlingford Road, Hampstead, to help Sheila recuperate. She suffered another miscarriage, then on 22 June 1979, after four months of bed rest in hospital, she gave birth to the twins. At around this time, Colin began an affair, one that led to his leaving Sheila five months after the birth. Sheila became increasingly upset; on one occasion, when Colin left a party with another woman, she required hospital treatment after breaking a window with her fist. The couple divorced in May 1982.
After the divorce, Nevill bought Sheila a flat in Morshead Mansions, Maida Vale, and Colin helped to raise the children from his home in nearby Kilburn. Sheila decided to trace her birth mother, then living in Canada. They met at Heathrow Airport in 1982 for a brief reunion, but the relationship did not develop. Around this time she became friendly with a group of young women who nicknamed her "Bambi", and who later told reporters that she was desperately insecure, often complaining about her poor relationship with her adoptive mother. There was a lot of partying and drugs, particularly cocaine, and older men. Sheila's brief modelling career had ended after the birth of the boys, and she lived on welfare or took low-paying jobs, including as a waitress for one week at School Dinners, a London restaurant in which dinner is served by young women in school uniform, stockings and suspenders. There were also cleaning jobs, and there was one episode of nude photography, much regretted.
Sheila's mental health continued to decline, with episodes of banging her head against walls. In 1983, her family doctor referred her to Dr. Hugh Ferguson, the psychiatrist who had treated June. Ferguson said she was in an agitated state, paranoid and psychotic. She was admitted to St Andrew's Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in Northampton, where she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, although Ferguson said this diagnosis was a mistake and that she was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Ferguson wrote that Sheila believed the devil had given her the power to project evil onto others, and that she could make her sons have sex and cause violence with her. She called them the "devil's children", the phrase June had used with regards to Sheila, and said she believed she was capable of murdering them or of getting them to kill others. She spoke about suicide, although the court heard that Ferguson did not regard her as a suicide risk. She was discharged in September 1983. He continued treating her as an outpatient with trifluoperazine, an antipsychotic drug. She was re-admitted to St Andrew's in March 1985, five months before the murders, after a psychotic episode in which she believed herself to be in direct communication with God and that people, including her boyfriend, were trying to hurt or kill her. She was discharged just under four weeks later, and as an outpatient received a monthly injection of haloperidol, an antipsychotic drug that has a sedative effect. From that point, the twins lived all or most of the time with Colin in Kilburn. According to Bamber, the family discussed placing the boys in daytime foster care over dinner on the night of the murders, with little response from Sheila.
Despite Sheila's erratic mental state, her psychiatrist told the court that the kind of violence necessary to commit the murders was not consistent with his view of her. In particular, he said he did not believe she would have killed her father or children, because her difficult relationship was confined to her mother. Her ex-husband said the same: that, despite her tendency to throw things and sometimes hit him, she had never harmed the children. June Bamber's sister, Pamela Boutflour, testified that Sheila was not a violent person and that she had never known her to use a gun; June's niece, Ann Eaton, told the court that Sheila did not know how to use one. Bamber disputed this, telling police on the night of the shooting, as they stood outside the house, that he and Sheila had gone target shooting together. He acknowledged later that he had not seen her fire a gun as an adult.
Jeremy Nevill Bamber (born 13 January 1961) is the son of a student midwife who, after an affair with a married army sergeant, gave her baby to the Church of England Children's Society when he was six weeks old. His biological parents later married each other and had other children; his father became a senior staff member in Buckingham Palace.
Nevill and June adopted Bamber when he was six months old. They sent him to St Nicholas Primary and the private Maldon Court prep school, along with Sheila, followed by Gresham's School, a boarding school in Holt, Norfolk, which he attended from September 1970. He was miserable there, not least because of bullying and a sexual assault. He left Gresham's with no qualifications, but attended sixth-form college and in 1978 passed seven O-levels. Nevill paid for him to visit Australia, where Bamber took a scuba-diving course, then New Zealand. Former friends alleged that he had broken into a jeweller's shop while in New Zealand and had stolen an expensive watch. He had also boasted, they said, of being involved in smuggling heroin.
He returned to England to work on his adoptive parents' farm for £170 a week, and set up home rent-free in a cottage Nevill owned at 9 Head Street Goldhanger (51.745857°N 0.755881°E). The cottage lay 3-3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the farmhouse (51.7591°N 0.8032°E), a five-minute drive by car and at least 15 minutes by bicycle. His father also gave him a car to use, and Jeremy owned eight percent of a family company, Osea Road Camp Sites Ltd, which ran a caravan site.
To Bamber's supporters, who over the years have included MPs and journalists, he is a victim of one of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice. The Guardian took up his case at one point. One or more Guardian journalists began corresponding with him in 2006, and two interviewed him in 2011. Describing him as "clever and strategic", they wrote that there was something about him that made the public unsympathetic toward him. He was "handsome in a rather cruel, caddish way--he seemed to exude arrogance and indifference. ... Like Meursault in the Camus novel L'Etranger, he did not seem to display the appropriate emotions." He is reported to have passed a lie detector test in 2007.
His detractors include his extended family and his father's former secretary, Barbara Wilson. She told reporters that Bamber used to provoke his parents, riding in circles around his mother on a bicycle, wearing make-up to upset his father, and once hiding a bag of live rats in the secretary's car. Whenever Bamber visited the farm, there were arguments, she said. Tension had apparently increased in the weeks before the murders; she said Nevill had remarked to her about foreseeing a "shooting accident". Bamber's girlfriend, Julie Mugford, alleged that he had talked about killing his family. A farm worker testified that Bamber had once said of Sheila: "I'm not going to share my money with my sister." In March 1985 he reportedly told a cousin: "I could kill anybody ...I could easily kill my parents". Bamber denied having said any of these things.
Extended family, inheritance
The financial ties and inheritance issues within the immediate and extended family added a layer of complexity to the case. Bamber's parents' estate included land and buildings occupied by Bamber's cousins, who were made aware, after the murders, that Bamber intended to sell them. It was one of those cousins who found the silencer in the gun cupboard after the murders, with the flecks of blood and paint that proved pivotal to the prosecution.
Because of Bamber's conviction, the estate passed instead to the cousins. One moved into White House Farm, while that cousin and several others acquired full ownership of the caravan site and other buildings. This conflict of interest became a bone of contention, as did the apparent failure of the police to search and secure the crime scene. Bamber argues that the family set him up, a claim that one of the group dismissed in 2010 as "an absolute load of piffle".
Bamber launched two legal actions while in prison to secure a share of the estate, which the cousins said was part of an attempt to harass and vilify them. In 2003 he began a High Court action to recover £1.2m from the estate of his adoptive grandmother, arguing that he should have inherited her home at Carbonnells Farm, Wix, Essex, which went instead to June's sister--the grandmother had cut Bamber out of her will when he was arrested--and that he was owed 17 years' rent from his cousins who lived there. In 2004 he went to the High Court again to claim a £326,000 share of the profit from the caravan site. The court ruled against him.
Bamber's visit to the farm
Atmosphere in the house
On 4 August 1985, three days before the murders, Sheila and the boys arrived at White House Farm to spend the week with June and Nevill. The housekeeper saw Sheila that day and noticed nothing unusual. Two farm workers, Julie and Leonard Foakes, saw her the following day with her children and said she seemed happy. One of the crime-scene photographs showed that someone had carved "I hate this place" into the cupboard doors of the bedroom in which the twins were sleeping.
Bamber visited the farm on the evening of Tuesday, 6 August. He told the court that his parents suggested to Sheila that evening that the boys be placed in day-time foster care with a local family. Bamber said Sheila did not seem bothered by the suggestion and had simply said she would rather stay in London. The boys had been in foster care before, although in London rather than near White House Farm, and it had not appeared to cause a problem for Sheila. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Ferguson, told the Court of Appeal in 2002 that any suggestion that the children be removed from her care would have provoked a strong reaction from Sheila, but that she might have welcomed daytime help.
A farmworker heard Jeremy leave around 9:30 pm. Barbara Wilson, the farm's secretary, telephoned Nevill at around that time, and was left with the impression that she had interrupted an argument. She said he was short with her and seemed to hang up in irritation, something he had never done before; he was by all accounts an even-tempered man. June Bamber's sister, Pamela Boutflour, telephoned around 10 pm. She spoke to Sheila, who she said was quiet, then to June, who seemed normal.
Bamber told the court that, during his visit on 6 August, hours before the murders, he had loaded the rifle, thinking he had heard rabbits outside, but hadn't used it. He had then left it on the kitchen table, with a full magazine and a box of ammunition, before leaving the house. When he left it in the kitchen, it did not have the silencer or telescopic sight attached, he said; they had been on the rifle in late July according to a nephew, but Bamber said his father must have removed them in the meantime. The prosecution disputed this, maintaining that the silencer was on the rifle when the family was murdered.
Nevill kept several guns at the farm. He was reportedly careful with them, cleaning them after use and securing them. He had bought the gun, a .22 Anschütz semi-automatic rifle, model 525, on 30 November 1984, along with a Parker Hale silencer, telescopic sight and 500 rounds of ammunition. Jeremy was with Nevill when he bought it from a gunsmith in Colchester. The gun used cartridges, which were loaded into a magazine that held ten cartridges. Twenty-five shots were fired during the killing, so if the rifle was fully loaded to begin with, it would have been reloaded at least twice. The court heard that the gun became harder to load with each cartridge; loading the tenth was described as "exceptionally hard".
The rifle had normally been used to shoot rabbits with the silencer and telescopic sight attached. The court heard that the telescopic sight had to be removed with a screwdriver, but it was usually left in place because it was time-consuming to realign it. Nevill's nephew visited the farmhouse on the weekend of 26-28 July 1985, and told the court that he had seen the rifle, in the gun cupboard in the ground-floor office, with the sight and silencer attached. He had taken the gun out and used it for target practice.
Police logs, 7 August 1985
Telephones in the farmhouse
There were three telephones at the farm on the night, all on the same landline. There was usually a cordless phone with a memory-recall feature in the kitchen; a beige digital phone, also kept in the kitchen; and a cream rotary phone in the main bedroom. (There was normally a fourth phone too, a blue digital phone in the first-floor office, but it had been sent for repairs on 5 August.) The rotary phone had at some point been moved out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, where the police found it after the murders with its receiver off the hook. They found the beige digital phone under a pile of magazines in the kitchen.
Bamber's call to police
Bamber telephoned the police from his home in the early hours of 7 August to raise the alarm. He told them he had received a telephone call from his father--from the White House Farm landline to the landline at Bamber's home--to say that Sheila had "gone beserk" with a gun. Bamber said the line went dead in the middle of the call.
The prosecution argued that Bamber had received no such a call, and that his claim to have done so was part of his setting the scene to blame Sheila. Nevill was "severely bloodied" at that point, according to the Court of Appeal, but the telephone had no visible blood on it, although it was also true that no swabs had been taken. It was Bamber himself, the prosecution said, who had left the kitchen telephone off the hook after calling his home from White House Farm to establish that part of his alibi.
After Bamber telephoned the police, a British Telecom operator checked the White House Farm line--at 3:56 am according to the police log and at 4:30 am according to the Court of Appeal--and found that the line was open. The operator could hear a dog barking. According to British Telecom, if Neville had telephoned Bamber without replacing the receiver, the line between them would have remained open for between eight and 16 minutes. Bamber would therefore not have been able to use his telephone to report the call to the police immediately, as he said he did in one statement; in another statement he said he had first telephoned his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, in London. That the line would not have cleared is one of several disputed points.
In 2010 Bamber's lawyers highlighted two police logs in support of Bamber's application to have his case referred back to the Court of Appeal. The question was whether these logs support the prosecution position that there was one call that night to the police, from Bamber alone; or the defence position that there were two calls to police, one from Nevill followed by a second from Bamber.
One log shows that Bamber rang Chelmsford police station--rather than the emergency number (999)--and spoke to PC Michael West in the information room. As a result West began an "event log". This states that Bamber's call came in at 3.36 am on 7 August 1985. The timing is important; Bamber maintains that he telephoned 10 minutes after his father phoned him. But at trial it was accepted that West had misread a digital clock, and that the call had probably come in just before 3:26 am, because that was when West asked a civilian dispatcher, Malcolm Bonnett, to send a car to the scene. The car, Charlie Alpha 5, was dispatched at 3:35 am. The event log noted a call from:
Mr. Bamber, 9 Head Street, Goldhanger ... [Bamber's home address]. Father phoned (age 62). "Please come over. Your sister has gone crazy + has the gun." Phone went dead. Father Mr. Bamber H/A White House Farm ... Sister Sheila Bamber age 27. Has history of mental illness. ... Despatched [sic] CA5 [Charlie Alpha 5] to scene ... Informant requested to attend scene."
The Appeal Court noted that Bamber had "tried to ring his father back at White House Farm but he could not get a reply". During the trial the court heard that Bamber said his father had not hung up after speaking and that he could hear noise in the background.
Michael Bonnett, a civilian dispatcher in Chelmsford HQ information room, then began a "radio log" (right), which kept track of messages about the situation. Bonnett or other staff added to the log as more messages were passed back and forth.
The log discusses a telephone call made at 3:26 am on 7 August to Chelmsford police station. According to the prosecution, this is the telephone call known to have been made by Bamber, the same call that is entered in the event log. There was only one call that night to the police station about the shooting, the prosecution says, and it was made by Bamber at or just before 3:26 am. Bamber's defence team argues otherwise. They say that the radio log is not a duplicate log of Bamber's call, but that it shows Nevill also telephoned the police that night.
The log is headed "Daughter gone berserk": "Mr Bamber, White House Farm, Tolleshunt d'Arcy--daughter Sheila Bamber, aged 26 years, has got hold of one of my guns." It adds: "Message passed to CD by the son of Mr Bamber after phone went dead." It goes on to say: "Mr Bamber has a collection of shotguns and .410s", and it includes White House Farm's telephone number: 860209. The final entry says: "0356 GPO [the telephone operator] have checked phone line to farmhouse and confirm phone left off hook." The log shows that a patrol car, Charlie Alpha 7 (CA7)--not Charlie Alpha 5, as mentioned in the event log--was sent to the scene at 3.35 am.
At some point Constable West spoke to Bamber again on the telephone; Bamber apparently complained about the time the police were taking, saying: "When my father rang he sounded terrified." He was told to go to the farm and wait for the police. Explaining why he had called a local police station and not 999, Bamber told police on the night that he had not thought it would make a difference to how soon they would arrive. He said he had spent time looking up the number, and even though his father had asked him to come quickly, he had first telephoned his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, in London, then had driven slowly to the farmhouse. He acknowledged that he could have called one of the farm workers, but had not considered it. In his early witness statements, Bamber said he had telephoned the police immediately after receiving his father's call, then telephoned Mugford. During later police interviews, he said he had called Mugford first. He said he was confused about the sequence of events.
Scene at White House Farm
After the telephone calls, Bamber made his way by car to the farmhouse, as did PS Bews, PC Myall and PC Saxby from Witham Police Station, passing Bamber on Pages Lane. They told the court that he was driving much slower than them. Bamber's cousin, Ann Eaton, testified that Bamber was normally a fast driver.
Bamber arrived at the farmhouse one or two minutes after the police. They waited for a tactical firearms group to arrive, which turned up at 5 am and decided to wait until daylight before trying to enter. Police determined that all the doors and windows to the house were shut, except for the window in the main bedroom on the first floor. Using a loudhailer, they spent two hours trying to communicate with Sheila. The only sound they reported from the house was a dog barking.
While waiting outside, the police questioned Bamber, who they said seemed calm. According to the Court of Appeal, he told them about the phone call from his father, and that it sounded as though someone had cut off the call. He said he did not get along with his sister. When asked whether she might have " gone berserk with a gun", the police said he replied: "I don't really know. She is a nutter. She's been having treatment." The police asked why Nevill would have called Bamber and not the police. Bamber replied that his father was the sort of person who might want to keep things within the family. He said that he (Bamber) had called the police station, rather than 999, because he did not think it would affect how long the police would take to respond. Over the next few hours he talked about cars in general with one of the officers, saying that the Osea Road caravan site "would be able to stand him a Porsche" soon.
Bamber told the police that Sheila was familiar with guns and that they had gone target shooting together. He said he had been at the farmhouse himself a few hours earlier, and that he had loaded the rifle because he thought he had heard rabbits outside. He had left it on the kitchen table fully loaded, with a box of ammunition nearby. After the bodies were discovered, a doctor, Dr. Craig, was called to the house to certify the deaths, which he testified could have occurred at any time during the night. He said Bamber appeared to be in a state of shock; Bamber broke down, cried and seemed to vomit. The doctor said Bamber told him about the discussion the family had had about possibly having Sheila's sons placed in foster care.
The police entered around 7:54 am with a sledgehammer through the back door. The door had been locked from the inside, with the key still in the lock. They found five bodies with multiple gunshot wounds, Nevill downstairs in the kitchen and the rest upstairs. Twenty-five shots had been fired, mostly at close range. In what order the family was killed is not known. A telephone was lying on one of the kitchen surfaces with its receiver off the hook, next to several .22 shells. The police said chairs and stools were overturned, and there was broken crockery, a broken sugar basin, and what looked like blood on the floor. A ceiling light lampshade had been broken.
Nevill was found in the kitchen, dressed in pyjamas, lying over an overturned chair next to the fireplace, amid a scene suggestive of a struggle. He had been shot eight times, six times to the head and face, fired when the rifle was a few inches from his skin. The remaining shots to his body had occurred from at least two feet away. Based on where the empty cartridges were found--three in the kitchen and one on the stairs--the police concluded that he had been shot four times upstairs, but had managed to get downstairs where a struggle took place, and during which he was hit several times with the rifle and shot again, this time fatally.
There were two wounds to his right side, and two to the top of his head, which would probably have resulted in unconsciousness. The left side of his lip was wounded, his jaw was fractured, and his teeth, neck and larynx were damaged. The pathologist said he "would not have been able to engage in purposeful talk", according to the Court of Appeal. There were gunshot wounds to his left shoulder and left elbow. The court heard that he had "black eyes and a broken nose, linear bruising to the cheeks, lacerations to the head, linear type bruising to the right forearm, bruising to the left wrist and forearm and three circular burn type marks to the back. The linear marks were consistent with Mr Bamber having been struck with a long blunt object, possibly a gun." One of the pillars of the prosecution case was that Sheila would not have been strong enough to inflict this beating on Nevill, who was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and by all accounts in good health.
June's body and clothing were heavily bloodstained; she was found in her nightdress with bare feet. The police believe she had been sitting up during part of the attack, based on the pattern of blood on her clothing. She was found lying on the floor by the door of the master bedroom. She had been shot seven times. One shot to her forehead, between her eyes, was fired from under one foot away. That and another shot to the right side of her head would both have caused her death quickly, the court heard. There were also shots to the right side of her lower neck, her right forearm, and two injuries on the right side of her chest and right knee.
Daniel and Nicholas
The boys were found in their beds in their own room (formerly Sheila's room). They appeared to have been shot while in bed. The court heard that Daniel had been shot five times in the back of the head, four times with the gun held within one foot of his head, and once from over two feet away. Nicholas had been shot three times, all contact or close-proximity shots.
Sheila was found on the floor of the master bedroom with her mother. She was in her nightdress, her feet were bare, and she had two bullet wounds under her chin, one of them on her throat. The pathologist, Dr Peter Vanezis, said that the lower of the injuries had occurred from three inches (76 mm) away, and that the higher one was a contact injury. The higher of the two would have killed her immediately. The lower injury would have killed her too, he said, but not necessarily straightaway. Vanezis testified that it would be possible for a person with such an injury to stand up and walk around, but the lack of blood on her nightdress suggested to him that she had not done this. He believed that the lower of her injuries had happened first, because it had caused bleeding inside the neck; the court heard that if the immediately fatal wound had happened first, the bleeding would not have occurred to the same extent. Vanesiz said that the pattern of bloodstains on her nightdress suggested she had been sitting up when she received both injuries.
Blood and urine samples indicated that she had taken the anti-psychotic drug haloperidol, and several days earlier had used cannabis. There were no marks on her body suggestive of a struggle. The firearms officer who first saw her said her feet and hands were clean, her fingernails manicured and not broken, and her fingertips free of blood, dirt or powder. There was no trace of lead dust. The rifle magazine would have been loaded at least twice during the killings; this would usually leave lubricant and material from the bullets on the hands. A scenes-of-crimes officer, DC Hammersley, said there were bloodstains on the back of her right hand, but that otherwise her hands were clean.
There was no blood on her feet or other debris, such as the sugar that was on the downstairs floor. Low traces of lead were found on her hands and forehead at postmortem, but the levels were consistent with the everyday handling of things around the house. A scientist, Mr Elliott, testified that if she had loaded 18 cartridges into a magazine he would expect to see more lead on her hands. The blood on her nightdress was consistent with her own, and no trace of firearm-discharge residue was on it. Given that she was wearing just a nightdress, it was hard to see how she could have carried the cartridges.
The rifle, without the silencer or sights attached, was lying on her body pointing up at her neck. June's Bible lay on the floor to the right of Sheila. It was normally kept in a bedside cupboard. June's fingerprints were on it, as were others that could not be identified, including one made by a child.
Murder-suicide theory, crime scene
The police and media were at first convinced by the murder-suicide theory. DCI Thomas "Taff" Jones, deputy head of CID, was so sure Sheila had killed her family that he ordered Bamber's cousins out of his office when they asked him to consider whether Bamber had set the whole thing up. The Daily Express reported on 8 August 1985, the day after the murders:
A farming family affectionately dubbed "The Archers" was slaughtered in a bloodbath yesterday. Brandishing a gun taken from her father's collection, deranged divorcee Sheila Bamber, 28, first shot her twin six-year-old sons. She gunned down her father as he tried to phone for help. Then she murdered her mother before turning the automatic .22 rifle on herself.
The result of this certainty was that the investigation was poorly conducted. The crime scene was not secured and searched thoroughly, and evidence was not recorded or preserved. Within a couple of days, the police had burned the bloodstained bedding and carpets, apparently to spare Bamber's feelings. The scenes-of-crime officer moved the murder weapon without wearing gloves, and it was not examined for fingerprints until weeks later. Three days after the killings, Bamber and the extended family were given back the keys to the house.
The police did not find the silencer in the cupboard. One of Bamber's cousins found it on 10 August, with what appeared to be flecks of red paint and blood, and took it to another of the cousin's homes; it took the police a further three days to collect it. A few days after that, it was the cousins who found a scratch on the red mantelpiece that the prosecution said was caused by the silencer during a struggle for the gun; that accounted for the fleck of red paint. The Bible found near Sheila was not examined at all. Journalist David Connett writes that a hacksaw blade that might have been used to gain entry to the house lay in the garden for months. Officers did not take contemporaneous notes; those who had dealt with Bamber wrote down their statements weeks later. The bodies were released days after the murders, and three of them (June, Nevill and Sheila) were cremated. Bamber's clothes were not examined until one month later. Ten years later all blood samples were destroyed.
After Bamber was convicted, the trial judge, Mr Justice Drake, expressed concern about the "less than thorough investigation". The Times wrote about "blunders, omissions and ineptitude". According to Claire Powell, "doing a Bamber" briefly became police slang for making a mess of a case. Home Secretary Douglas Hurd requested a report on the investigation from Essex Chief Constable Robert Bunyard, and in March 1989 issued a statement in the House of Commons: "It is clear that errors were made in the early stages of the police investigation contrary to existing force practice."
Funeral, Bamber's behaviour
The inquest opened on 14 August 1985. The police gave evidence that it was a murder-suicide, and the bodies were released. The Bambers and Sheila were cremated; the boys were buried. Bamber's behaviour before and after the funeral increased suspicion among his family that he had been involved. He sobbed during the funeral service for his parents and sister, and at one point seemed to buckle and had to be supported by his girlfriend. Several family members and friends alleged that, later at the wake, he was smiling and joking.
Shortly after the funerals, he travelled to Amsterdam with Mugford and a friend, where he bought a large quantity of cannabis; the travel agent who sold the tickets said the group had been in high spirits. Bamber also began selling his family's belongings; Mugford's mother was offered June's car and an ad was placed in a local newspaper asking ?900 for Nevill's. Just after his first arrest and release in September, Bamber tried to sell 20 nude photographs of Sheila for ?20,000 to The Sun, and went on another overseas trip with a friend, Brent, this time to Saint-Tropez.
Fingerprints on rifle
A print from Sheila's right ring finger was found on the right side of the butt, pointing downwards. A print from Bamber's right forefinger was on the rear end of the barrel, above the stock and pointing across the gun. He said he had used the gun to shoot rabbits. There were three other prints that could not be identified.
The silencer was not on the gun when the police found the bodies. It was found by one of Bamber's cousins, three days after the murders, in the ground-floor office gun cupboard. Whether it was on the gun during the murders became a pivotal issue. The prosecution maintained that the silencer had indeed been on the gun, and that this meant Sheila could not have shot herself. Forensic tests indicated that her arms were not long enough to turn the gun on herself with the silencer attached. If she had shot the others with the silencer, then realized the gun was too long for her to shoot herself, the silencer would have been found next to her body; she had no reason to return it to the gun cupboard before going back upstairs to shoot herself. If Sheila was not the killer, it meant Bamber had lied about the telephone call from his father saying Sheila had "gone berserk" with the gun. That put Bamber himself in the frame.
The police searched the gun cupboard on the day of the murders but found nothing. Three days later, on 10 August, Bamber's extended family visited the farm with Basil Cock, the estate's executor. During that visit, one of the cousins, David Boutflour, found the silencer and rifle sights in the gun cupboard. The court heard that this was witnessed by Boutflour's father and sister, as well as by Basil Cock and the farm secretary.
Instead of alerting the police, the family took the silencer to Boutflour's sister's home. Boutflour said it felt sticky. They found red paint and blood on it, and the surface of it had been damaged. When the police collected the silencer from them on 12 August, five days after the murders, an officer reportedly noticed an inch-long grey hair attached to it, but this had gone by the time the silencer arrived at the Forensic Science Service at Huntingdon. A scientist at the Forensic Science Laboratory, Mr. Hayward, found blood on the inside and outside surface of the silencer, the latter not enough to permit analysis. The blood inside was found to be the same blood group as Sheila's, although it could have been a mixture of Nevill's and June's. A firearms expert, a Mr. Fletcher, said the blood was backspatter, caused by a close-contact shooting.
Scratch marks on mantelpiece
The cousins went back to the farmhouse to search for the source of the red paint on the silencer. In thc kitchen they found marks in the red paint on the underside of the mantelpiece above the Aga cooker. DI Cook, a scenes-of-crime officer, took a paint sample from the mantelpiece on 14 August. This was found to contain the same 15 layers of paint and varnish that were in the paint flake found on the silencer. Casts were taken of the marks on the mantel, and the marks were deemed consistent with the silencer having come into contact several times with the mantelpiece. The implication was that the silencer had scratched the mantelpiece during a fight for the gun.
Julie Mugford's statements
On 7 September 1985, a month after the murders, Bamber's girlfriend, Julie Mugford, changed her statement to police, now alleging that Bamber had been planning to kill his family. As a result of her second statement, Bamber was arrested the following day.
Bamber and Mugford had started dating in 1983, when she was 19 and studying for a degree in education at Goldsmith's College in London. She had taken a holiday job in Sloppy Joe's, a pizzeria in Colchester, where Jeremy had a bar job in the evenings. Mugford admitted to a brief background of dishonesty. She had been cautioned in 1985 for using a friend's chequebook to obtain goods worth around £700, after it had been reported stolen; she said she and the friend had repaid the money to the bank. She also acknowledged having helped Bamber, in March or April 1985, steal just under £1,000 from the office of the Osea Road caravan site his family owned; she said he had staged a break-in to make it appear that strangers were responsible.
Statements to police
Mugford was at first supportive of Bamber. Photographs of his parents' and Sheila's funeral show him weeping and hanging onto her arm. The day after the murders she told police that he had telephoned her at home at 3:00-3:30 am on 7 August and said, "There's something wrong at home", and sounded worried. She said she had been tired and had not asked what was wrong.
Her position changed the following month. She had had a series of rows with Bamber. He seemed to want to end the relationship, and they had argued about his involvement in the murders. She told him he was a psychopath and at one point tried to smother him with a pillow. During one argument on 4 September, another woman telephoned Bamber in her presence, and it became clear to Mugford that he had been seeing that woman too. Mugford smashed a mirror, slapped Bamber and he twisted her arm up her back. Three days later she went to the police and changed her statement.
In the second statement she alleged that, between July and October 1984, Bamber said he wished he could "get rid of them all". He had talked disparagingly about his "old" father and "mad" mother, she said, who were trying to "run his life". He said his sister had nothing to live for, and that the twins were disturbed. That his parents were paying for Sheila's expensive flat in Maida Vale annoyed him, she said. In discussions she said she had dismissed as "idle talk", Bamber had talked about sedating his parents with sleeping pills, shooting them, then setting fire to the farmhouse. He reportedly said Sheila would make a good scapegoat. Mugford alleged he had discussed cycling along the back roads to the house, entering the house through the kitchen window because the catch was broken, and leaving it via a different window that latched when it was shut from the outside. A telephone call would be made from White House Farm to his home in Goldhanger "because the last phone call made would be recorded". He claimed to have killed rats with his bare hands to test whether he was able to kill, but he said it had taught him that he would not be able to kill his family, although he allegedly continued to talk about doing so.
"Tonight or never" allegation
Mugford said she had spent the weekend before the murders with Bamber in his cottage in Goldhanger, where he had dyed his hair black. She had seen his mother's bicycle there, she said; the prosecution later alleged that he had used this bicycle to cycle between his cottage and the farmhouse on the night of the murders, to avoid being seen in his car on the road. She told police Bamber had telephoned her at 9:50 pm on 6 August to say he had been thinking about the crime all day, was "pissed off", and that it was "tonight or never". A few hours later, at 3:00-3:30 am on 7 August, she said he phoned her again to say: "Everything is going well. Something is wrong at the farm. I haven't had any sleep all night ... bye honey and I love you lots." Her flatmates' evidence suggested that call had come through closer to 3:00 am. He called her later in the morning to tell her that Sheila had gone mad, and that a police car was coming to pick her up. When she arrived with the police at Bamber's cottage, she said he had pulled her to one side and said: "I should have been an actor."
Later on the evening of 7 August, she asked Bamber whether he had done it. He said no, but that a friend of his had, whom he named; the man was a plumber the family had used in the past. Bamber allegedly said he had told this friend how he could enter and leave the farmhouse undetected, and that one of his instructions had been for the friend to telephone him from the farm on one of the phones in the house that had a memory redial facility, so that if the police checked it, it would give him an alibi. Everything had gone as planned, he said, except that Nevill had put up a fight, and the friend had become angry and shot him seven times. The friend had allegedly told Sheila to lie down and shoot herself last, Bamber said. The friend then placed the Bible on her chest so she appeared to have killed herself in a religious frenzy. The children were shot in their sleep, he said. Mugford said Bamber claimed to have paid the friend £2,000.
Letter about Mugford
A letter dated 26 September 1985 from the assistant director of public prosecutions who prepared the case against Bamber suggests that Mugford not be prosecuted for the burglary, the cheque fraud, and for a further offence of selling cannabis. She subsequently testified against Bamber during his trial in October 1986. The judge told the jury that they could convict Bamber on Mugford's testimony alone. Immediately after the verdict was announced, Mugford sold her story to the News of the World for ?25,000 (£66,000 in 2016).
As a result of Mugford's statement Bamber was arrested on 8 September 1985, as was the friend Mugford said he had implicated, although the latter had a solid alibi and was released. Bamber told police Mugford was lying because he had jilted her. He said he loved his parents and sister, and denied that they had kept him short of money; he said the only reason he had broken into the caravan site with Mugford was to prove that security was poor. He said he had occasionally gained entry to the farmhouse through a downstairs windows, and had used a knife to move the catches from the outside. He also said he had seen his parents' wills, and that they had left the estate to be shared between him and Sheila. As for the rifle, he told police the gun was used mostly with the silencer off because it would otherwise not fit in its case.
He was bailed from the police station on 13 September, after which he went on holiday to Saint-Tropez. Before leaving England, he returned to the farmhouse, gaining entry by the downstairs bathroom window. He said he did this because he had left his keys in London and needed some papers from the house for the trip to France; he entered through the window rather than borrow keys from the farm's housekeeper who lived nearby. When he returned to England on 29 September, he was re-arrested and charged with the murders.
Trial, October 1986
Bamber was tried in October 1986 before Mr Justice Drake and a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court, during a trial that lasted 19 days. The prosecution was led by Anthony Arlidge QC, and the defence by Geoffrey Rivlin QC, supported by Ed Lawson, QC. The Times wrote that Bamber cut an arrogant figure in the witness box. At one point when prosecutors accused him of lying, he replied: "That is what you have got to establish."
The prosecution case was that Bamber, motivated by hatred and greed, had left White House Farm around 10 pm on 6 August 1985, after dining with his family, to drive to his home in Head Street, Goldhanger. Later, perhaps in the early hours of the morning of 7 August, he had returned to the farm on his mother's bicycle--which he had borrowed a few days earlier--cycling along a route that avoided the main roads and approaching the house from the back. He had entered the house through a downstairs bathroom window, taken the rifle with the silencer attached, and gone upstairs.
He had shot June in her bed, but she managed to get up and walk a few steps before collapsing and dying. He had shot Nevill in the bedroom too, but Nevill was able to get downstairs where he and Bamber fought in the kitchen, before Bamber shot him four times, twice in his temple and twice into the top of his head. He had shot Sheila in the main bedroom, next to her mother, and had shot the children in their beds as they slept.
They argued that Bamber had then set about arranging the scene to make it appear that Sheila was the killer. He discovered that she could not have reached the trigger with the silencer attached, so he removed it and returned it to the gun cupboard, then placed a Bible next to her body to introduce a religious theme. He removed the kitchen phone from its hook, left the house via a kitchen window, perhaps after showering, and banged the window from the outside so that the catch dropped back into position. He had then cycled on his mother's bicycle. Shortly after 3 am, he had telephoned Mugford, then the police at 3:26 am to say he had just received a frantic call from his father. To create a delay before the bodies were discovered, he had not called 999, had driven slowly to the farmhouse, and had told police that his sister was familiar with guns, so that they would be reluctant to enter.
The prosecution argued that Bamber had not received a telephone call from his father, that Nevill was too badly injured after the first shots to have spoken to anyone, that there was no blood on the kitchen phone that had been left off the hook, and that Nevill would have called the police before calling Bamber. They also argued that, had Bamber really received such a call, he would have dialled 999, alerted the farm workers, then made his way quickly there himself.
The silencer played a central role. It was deemed to have been on the rifle when it was fired, because of the blood found inside it. The prosecution said the blood had come from Sheila's head when the silencer was pointed at her. Had she discovered that she could not shoot herself with the silencer attached, the court heard, it would have been found next to her body; she had no reason to return it to the gun cupboard. That she had carried out the killings was further discounted because, it was argued, she had not recently expressed suicidal thoughts; the expert evidence was that she would not have harmed her children or father; she had no interest in or knowledge of guns; she lacked the strength to overcome her father; and there was no evidence on her clothes or body that she had moved around the crime scene or been involved in a struggle. In particular, her long fingernails had remained intact.
The defence maintained that the witnesses who said Bamber disliked his family were lying or had misinterpreted his words. Mugford had lied about Bamber's confession, they said, because he had betrayed her, and she wanted to stop him from being with anyone else. No one had seen Bamber cycle to and from the farm. There were no marks on him on the night that suggested he had been in a fight. No blood-stained clothing of his was recovered. He had not driven to the farm as quickly as he could have after his father telephoned because he was afraid. There was no probative value in the finding of a hacksaw in the garden, because Bamber had entered the house via the windows many times, before the killing and since.
The defence argued that Sheila was the killer, and that she did know how to handle guns, because she had been raised on a farm and had attended shoots when she was younger. She had a very serious mental illness, had told a psychiatrist she felt capable of killing her children, and the loaded rifle and cartridges had been left on the kitchen table by Bamber. There had been a recent family argument about placing the children in foster care.
The defence also argued that people who have carried out so-called "altruistic" killings have been known to engage in ritualistic behaviour before killing themselves, and that Sheila might have placed the silencer in the cupboard, changed her clothes and washed herself, which would explain why there was little lead on her hands, or sugar from the floor on her feet. There was also a possibility that the blood in the silencer was not hers, but was a mixture of Nevill's and June's.
Summing up, verdict
The judge said there were three crucial points, in no particular order. Did the jury believe Julie Mugford or Jeremy Bamber? Were they sure that Sheila was not the killer who then committed suicide? He said this question involved another: was the second, fatal, shot fired at Sheila with the silencer on? If yes, she could not have fired it. Finally, did Nevill call Bamber in the middle of the night? If there was no such call, it undermined the entirety of Bamber's story; the only reason he would have had to invent the phone call was that he was responsible for the murders.
The jury found Bamber guilty on 28 October 1986 by a majority of ten to two; had one more juror supported him, he would not have been convicted. The judge told him he was "evil, almost beyond belief" and sentenced him to five life terms, with a recommendation that he serve at least 25 years. In December 1994 Home Secretary Michael Howard told Bamber that he would remain in prison for the rest of his life, following a decision by the home secretary of the day, Douglas Hurd.
Leave to appeal refused, 1988, 1989, 1994
Bamber first sought leave to appeal in November 1986, arguing that the judge had misdirected the jury. The application was heard and refused by a single judge in April 1988. Bamber's lawyer requested a full hearing before three judges, arguing that the trial judge's summing up had been biased against Bamber, that his language had been too forceful, and that he had undermined the defence by advancing his own theory. The lawyer also argued that the defence had not pressed Julie Mugford about her dealings with the media, but should have, because as soon as the trial was over her story began to appear in newspapers. The judges rejected the application in March 1989.
Because the trial judge had criticized the police investigation, Essex Police held an internal inquiry, conducted by Detective Chief Superintendent Dickinson. Bamber alleged this report confirmed that evidence had been withheld by the police, so he made a formal complaint, which was investigated in 1991 by the City of London Police. This process uncovered more documentation, which Bamber used to petition the Home Secretary in September 1993 for a referral back to the Court of Appeal, refused in July 1994.
During this process, the Home Office declined to give Bamber the expert evidence it had obtained, so Bamber applied for judicial review of that decision in November 1994; this resulted in the Home Office handing over its expert evidence. In 1996, without informing Bamber or his lawyers, an Essex police officer destroyed many of the trial exhibits. He said he had not been aware that the case was ongoing.
Court of Appeal, 2002
Bamber's case was passed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) when it was established in 1997 to review alleged miscarriages of justice. The CCRC referred the case to the Court of Appeal in March 2001 on the grounds that new DNA testing on the silencer constituted fresh evidence. The appeal was heard from 17 October to 1 November 2002 at the Royal Courts of Justice by Lord Justice Kay, Mr Justice Wright and Mr Justice Henriques, who published their decision on 12 December 2002. The prosecution was represented by Victor Temple QC and Bamber by Michael Turner QC. In a 522-point judgment, the judges said that there was no conduct on the part of investigators that threatened the integrity of the trial, and that the more they examined the case, the more they thought the jury had been right.
Bamber brought 16 issues to the attention of the court. Two (grounds 14 and 15) related to the silencer and DNA testing; the rest were about failure to disclose evidence or the fabrication of evidence. The defence withdrew ground 11 ("the proposed purchase of a Porsche by the appellant").
New silencer evidence
Although all the grounds (except 11) were reviewed by the court, the reason for the referral to the Court of Appeal was ground 15, the discovery of DNA on the silencer, the result of a test not available in 1986. The silencer evidence during the trial came from a Mr. Hayward, a biologist in private practice, formerly of the Forensic Science Laboratory. He had found a "considerable amount of blood" inside the silencer; he had stated that it was human blood and that the blood group was consistent with it having come from Sheila. He said there was a "remote possibility" that it was a mixture of blood from Nevill and June.
Mark Webster, an expert instructed by Bamber's defence team, argued that Hayward's tests had been inadequate, and that there was a real possibility, not a remote one, that the blood had come from Nevill and June. This was a critical point, because the prosecution case rested on the silencer having been on the gun when Sheila was shot, something she could not have done herself because of the length of her arms. If she was shot with the silencer on the gun, it meant that someone else had shot her. If her blood was inside the silencer, it supported the prosecution's position that she had been shot by another party, but if the blood inside the silencer belonged to someone else, that part of the prosecution case collapsed.
The defence argued that new tests comparing DNA in the silencer to a sample from Sheila's biological mother suggested that the "major component" of the DNA in the silencer had not come from Sheila. A DNA sample from June's sister suggested that the major component had come from June, they argued. The court concluded that June's DNA was in the silencer, that Sheila's DNA may have been in the silencer, and that there was evidence of DNA from at least one male. The judges' conclusion was that the results were complex, incomplete, and also meaningless because they did not establish how June's DNA came to be in the silencer years after the trial, did not establish that Sheila's was not in it, and did not lead to a conclusion that Bamber's conviction was unsafe.
Against whole-life tariff
In 2008 Bamber lost a High Court appeal against the whole-life tariff before Mr. Justice Tugendhat. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2009. Bamber and three other British whole-life prisoners appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but the appeal was rejected in 2012. Bamber and two prisoners, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore, appealed that decision too, and in 2013 the European Court's Grand Chamber ruled that keeping the prisoners in jail with no prospect of release or review may not be compatible with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
A campaign gathered pace over the years, known from November 2015 as JB Campaign Ltd, to secure Bamber's release. From March 2001 several websites were set up to discuss the evidence, and in 2002 Bamber used one of them to offer a £1m reward for evidence that would overturn his conviction. Campaign events included a supporter reading a letter from Bamber to his parents at his parents' graveside, and a "Bamber bake-off" featuring his mother's favourite recipes.
Bamber's case was taken up by MPs George Galloway and Andrew Hunter and journalists Bob Woffinden and Eric Allison of The Guardian. Allison became one of the campaign's patrons. Woffinden argued between 2007 and 2011 that Sheila had shot her family, then watched as police gathered outside the house before shooting herself. He changed his mind in 2011 and said he believed Bamber was guilty. In 2015 the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell appealed to the Chief Constable of Essex Police to disclose all evidence related to the case, in the interests of transparency.
Location of Sheila's body, time of death
The defence disputed the location of Sheila's body. The police said they found her upstairs with her mother. According to early police logs, PC Laurence Collins initially reported seeing through a window what he thought was the body of a woman near the kitchen door, but he later radioed that it was in fact a man. A retired police officer who worked on the case said in 2011 that the first police logs were simply mistaken in reporting that a woman's body had been found downstairs.
Bamber's lawyers argued that images of Sheila taken by a police photographer at around 9 am on 7 August 1985 showed her blood was still wet. According to the defence team, had she been killed before 3:30 am, as the prosecution said, the blood would have congealed by 9 am. They argue that she was alive when Bamber was standing outside the house with the police, shot herself in the kitchen just as the police entered, then ran up one of the staircases to the bedroom, where she shot herself again, this time fatally.
Alleged crime-scene damage
The defence argued that the first officers to enter the farmhouse had inadvertently disturbed the crime scene, then reconstructed it. Crime-scene photographs not made available to the original defence show Sheila's right arm and hand in slightly different positions in relation to the gun, which is lying across her body. The gun itself also appears to have moved. Former Lancashire Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gradwell, shown the photographs by the Guardian and Observer, said in 2011: "The evidence shows, or portrays, Essex police having damaged the scene, and then having staged it again to make it look like it was originally. And if that has happened, and that hasn't been disclosed, that is really, really serious."
Arguments about the silencer
That the gun had a silencer on it during the murders was central to the prosecution's case. With the silencer, the gun was too long for Sheila to have turned the gun on herself. According to the prosecution, paint on the silencer could be matched to fresh scratch marks on the kitchen mantelpiece, assumed to have been made during a fight for the gun. That the silencer was found in the gun cupboard was important to the prosecution, because Sheila had no reason to return it to the cupboard before killing herself. But that it was found by one of the cousins who inherited part of the estate--days after the police had searched the house--has blighted the prosecution's case, even though it was accepted by a majority of the jury.
Post-trial, Bamber and his lawyers have sought since 1987 to demolish the silencer evidence. According to Carol Ann Lee, in her The Murders at White House Farm (2015), Bamber claimed in April that year that DCI Jones had found the silencer under a bed on 7 August, the day of the murders, and had placed it in the gun cupboard for safekeeping, according to a statement Bamber said he had seen. The Essex police called this "total nonsense" in a letter to the Crown Prosecution Service, and Bamber was never able to produce the statement.
Lee writes that the silencer evidence became confused because of the way the exhibit was named. It was first called SBJ/1, because it was handed over by DS Stan Jones (SBJ). When it was learned that David Boutflour had found it and Jones had merely handed it over, the silencer was renamed exhibit DB/1. But because there was a DC David Bird, it was renamed again to DRB/1. The name changes led to confusion in later documents, giving the impression that more than one silencer had been found. In 2011, Lee writes, Bamber's blog announced: "We can now prove 100% that there were two sound moderators obtained by police at different times". The CCRC responded that year that the claims were "not supported by the material that exists ...". Again in 2013 Bamber's blog said: "I can now prove with 100% certainty that Essex police seized on Parker Hale (MM1 type) suppressor from the house on 7 August 1985" (the day of the murder, rather than the day the cousin found it). According to The Times in 2013, Bamber said he intended to show the police took four silencers from his family members, including the one in the gun cupboard, and that evidence and paperwork from them--and from an additional laboratory silencer--was mixed up.
Gun experts commissioned by Bamber's lawyers, in or around 2012, argued that the injuries were consistent with the silencer not having been used, and that its absence would explain burn marks on Nevill's body. The court heard that "three circular burn type marks" had been found on Nevill's back. The police report submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions in November 1985 argued that the burn marks were made with the hot end of the gun or with a poker from the Aga.
The experts involved in compiling the defence report were David Fowler, chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland in the United States; Ljubisa Dragovic, chief medical examiner of Oakland county in Michigan; Marcella Fierro, former chief medical examiner for the state of Virginia; Daniel Caruso, chief of burn services at the Arizona Burn Center; and Dr. John Manlove, a British forensic scientist.
Arguments about scratch marks
The defence commissioned a report from Peter Sutherst, a British forensic photographic expert, who was asked in 2008 to examine negatives of the kitchen taken on the day of the murders and later. In his report, dated 17 January 2010, Sutherst argued that the scratch marks in the red paintwork on the kitchen mantelpiece had been created after the crime-scene photographs had been taken. The prosecution alleged that the marks had been made during the struggle in the kitchen between Bamber and his father, as the silencer, attached to the rifle, had scratched against the mantelpiece. The prosecution said that paint chips identical to the paint on the mantelpiece were found on or inside the silencer.
Sutherst said the scratch marks appeared in photographs taken on 10 September 1985, 34 days after the murders, but were not visible in the original crime-scene photographs. He also said he had failed to find in the photographs any chipped paint on the carpet below the mantelpiece, where it might have been expected to fall had the mantelpiece been scratched during a struggle. He was asked by the CCRC to examine a red spot on the carpet visible in photographs underneath the scratches on the mantelpiece. He said the red spot matched a piece of nail varnish missing from one of Sheila's toes. He concluded that the scratch marks on the mantel had been created after the day of the murders.
Arguments about police logs
Police telephone logs had been entered as evidence during the trial, but had not been noticed by Bamber's lawyers. Bamber's new defence team based their new CCRC submissions in part on these logs, particularly on the radio log that, they say, shows Neville called police that night to say his daughter had "gone berserk" with one of his guns. A separate log of a police radio message shows there was an attempt to speak to someone inside the farmhouse that night, as police waited outside to enter, but there was no response. Police say the officers simply made a mistake.
Arguments about Mugford letter
Bamber's lawyers said the 26 September 1985 letter to Mugford from John Walker, assistant director of public prosecutions, raised the possibility that she had been persuaded to testify in the hope that charges against her would not be pursued. In the letter Walker suggested to the Chief Constable of Essex Police, "with considerable hesitation", that Mugford not be prosecuted for drug offences, burglary and cheque fraud, offences to which she had confessed during her police interviews regarding Bamber. The defence team also highlights that, as soon as the verdict was announced, Mugford sold her story to the News of the World for ?25,000 (£66,000 in 2016).
Criminal Cases Review Commission, 2004-2012
In 2004 Bamber's defence team, which included Giovanni di Stefano, applied unsuccessfully to have the CCRC refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. His lawyers made a fresh submission to the CCRC in 2009. The CCRC provisionally rejected Bamber's 2009 submission in February 2011 in an 89-page document. It invited his lawyers to respond within three months, extended the deadline to allow them to study all 406 crime-scene photographs, and in September 2011 granted them an indefinite period in which to pursue an additional line of inquiry.
The CCRC finally rejected the application in April 2012 in a 109-page report, which said the submission had not identified any new evidence or legal argument that would raise the real possibility of the Court of Appeal overturning the conviction. In November 2012 the High Court turned down Bamber's application for a judicial review of that decision. The following year di Stefano was sentenced in the UK to 14 years in prison for having fraudulently presented himself as a lawyer. As of December 2013 Bamber's defence team was said to be preparing a fresh submission.
Source of the article : Wikipedia