THE TRUTH BEHIND THE WHITE HOUSE FARM MURDERS
AND THE WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT OF JEREMY BAMBER
(Mike T draft #3, 2.10.2006)
CHAPTER ONE: Genesis
CHAPTER TWO: You Can Never Tell
CHAPTER THREE: Scene of the Crime
CHAPTER FOUR: Adherence to a Paradigm
CHAPTER FIVE: Happy Families
CHAPTER SIX: Hell Hath No Fury
CHAPTER SEVEN: Face-to-Face
CHAPTER EIGHT: Between Two Evils
Photo section (I)
CHAPTER NINE: Preparing the Defence
CHAPTER TEN: Trial
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Trial Continued
CHAPTER TWELVE: Verdict
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: A Tale of Two Guns
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Among the Damned
Photo section (II)
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Secrets of the Files
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Thou Shalt Follow Me
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: In the Blood
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: 7436 Days
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Truth Will Out
Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o’erwhelm them,
To men’s eyes.
On 29 October 1986 Jeremy Nevill Bamber was convicted at Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex for the brutal murder of five members of his adoptive family. For two decades he has been locked away, universally condemned for coolly plotting his ‘perfect crime.’ He is innocent of that crime.
Jeremy’s trial electrified the nation; the tale of the unholy massacre in the English countryside had all the ingredients of a classic whodunit. The tragic cast list included overbearing parents, a mentally unstable daughter, a scheming, envious son, a jilted girlfriend who blew the whistle, and - inevitably - bungling police. There was money, glamour, sexual intrigue, and sheer unblinking horror aplenty. The presiding judge described Jeremy as ‘warped’ and ‘evil almost beyond belief.’
Numerous books, articles and television programs have since depicted how the angelic-looking twenty-four year old crept into his parents’ farmhouse in Essex and massacred his family one by one. The two children were killed first while sleeping in their beds. Five bullets were shot into the back of Daniel Caffell’s head; his twin brother Nicholas was shot three times in the head. Sixty-one year old Nevill Bamber was found downstairs in the kitchen. He had been shot a total of eight times and his face and upper torso was bloodied and bruised from repeated blows from the butt of the rifle used in the attack. June Bamber died with seven gunshot wounds to her body. Like her husband, she had not given her life easily, and after dragging herself to the doorway of her bedroom in a desperate attempt to escape, she was shot from close range directly between the eyes. The final victim, Sheila Caffell, suffered two point-blank gunshot wounds to the throat.
The prosecution said Jeremy was responsible. The defence claimed Sheila had murdered her family and then turned the gun on herself. During the extensive police investigation, key officers never wavered in their belief that Jeremy was innocent. Others were convinced he was guilty. Many found the arguments against either suspect too close to call and likened the case to a web of shot silk, looking red from one angle, green from another. By the time the case reached court however, the ‘evidence’ appeared abundant and irrefutable. Despite this, the jury was split and returned a majority verdict only: ten thought the prisoner guilty; two did not.
Jeremy was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the recommendation he serve no less than twenty-five years. In 1994 he received a letter from the Home Secretary informing him that he would never be released from prison making him one of only a small number of convicted murderers for whom their life sentence meant just that. (This list includes the Who’s Who of British criminality: the gangster Reginald Kray, the Moors Murderer Ian Brady, the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and Dr Harold Shipman, suspected of killing some two hundred people.)
To most Britons, Jeremy is a monster kept out of harm’s way in the country’s most high-security prisons amongst the country’s most dangerous individuals. By the time of his 2002 Appeal, he had been forced to undergo at least seventeen jail moves and eighty-nine cell moves.
But unlike other infamous mass murderers, Jeremy has tirelessly protested against his conviction. Far from being the monster everyone has made him out to be, Jeremy is the victim of one of the most mind-numbing miscarriages of justice of our time. The truth – and it is an unequivocal truth – is that a large a number of Essex police officers, many of them high-ranking, knew that Jeremy was innocent on the very morning of the murders. This in turn led to the confident announcement on the day of the tragedy that the deaths were undoubtedly the result of a suicide-murder pact perpetrated by Sheila Caffell. The crime scene was hastily cleared, evidence destroyed. The inquest returned a clear verdict of four murders and suicide, and the bodies of the victims were released for cremation and burial. Only a bizarre chain of circumstances more than a month after the case was effectively closed forced the police to look again. Some of them did not want to.
After Jeremy’s conviction, Essex police claimed that they had simply made ‘many mistakes’; the tabloids - with a fervour the seventeenth-century witch-hunting lawyer Matthew Hopkins would have been proud - begged answers as to how the police had been so badly deceived: ‘How Did He Fool You All?’ they asked. For over twenty years, Essex police have avoided trying to answer that question. Instead, they have played a bizarre game of ring-around-the-rosy; evidence has been edited, destroyed, or simply termed off-limits. They have lied. They have evaded. They have deceived. It is perhaps with poisonous irony that in the final analysis, the police evidence accumulated during the investigation which condemned the young heir to such a terrible fate is now the very evidence which proves him innocent.
Jeremy never understood the chain of events that led to him having his life forfeited in the name of justice. He claimed his conviction was through a ‘series of deceits’ on behalf of the police and his extended family; but this statement – scoffed by the media and authorities – never went far enough.
When I began investigating the case three years ago it soon became apparent that the police had got the wrong killer, but like Jeremy, I couldn’t understand why it had all happened the way it had, and I determined to find out the answers for myself. I never imagined just how bizarre and far-reaching the consequences of that investigation would become. In many ways the truth of what really happened at White House Farm all those years ago is even more breathtaking and shocking than the crimes themselves.
The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
The servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.
But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wished it were already kindled!
But I have a baptism to undergo: and how distressed I am until it is completed!
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father
against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law…
(Luke, verses 46 – 53)
At 3.26 a.m. on the morning of August 7 1985, the telephone rang in the control room at Chelmsford police station. The duty officer, PC Michael West, answered the call.
A well-educated male voice declared: ‘I am Jeremy Bamber, of 9 Head Street, Goldhanger. You’ve got to help me.’
The caller claimed that he had just received a frantic phone call from his father, who lived at White House Farm just outside the nearby village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy. He explained that his father Nevill had called him with the message: ‘Please come over. Your sister has gone crazy and she has got a gun…’ Then the line went dead.
It was reported later that Jeremy then said something to the effect that his sister, Sheila Caffell, ‘could go mad at anything; she’s done it before.’ He added that he’d tried ringing the local police station at Witham with no success, ‘so I rang you.’
A sceptical PC West discovered that Sheila had access to a number of deadly firearms inside the farmhouse. The constable asked Jeremy to stay on the line and put the call on hold. Using the radio link between Chelmsford and Witham, West arranged for police officers to be sent to White House Farm at once. He then returned to the telephone and spoke to Jeremy, who was still on the line.
‘Christ,’ said Jeremy, clearly agitated, ‘you took a long time.’
Jeremy was informed that a police car had been sent to his father’s farm. He was also asked who was in the house. ‘My father obviously,’ came the reply. ‘My mother and Sheila.’ Jeremy then added that he had tried ringing his father back but without success.
Police car Charlie Alpha 7 sped from Witham Police Station towards the suspected crime scene, some ten miles away. The Bamber farm stood at the seaward fringe of the Regency village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy.
At this hour the narrow roads which taper through the flat landscape of southern Essex were dark and almost deserted. The police car, containing three officers, overtook Jeremy’s Vauxhall Astra, also heading to the scene, on the Tollesbury Road. Those who maintain Jeremy engineered the murder point out how suspicious it was that he was driving at such a sedate pace. Perhaps those people have misunderstood two simple facts: firstly, Tollesbury Road in parts is winding, ill-lit and potentially dangerous; secondly, and more importantly, Jeremy was under instruction to wait for the police before taking any action himself. Even if he had sped like a madman to the farm, he would then have had to wait until the police officers arrived. Under no circumstances was he to approach the house on his own accord.
Jeremy found the police officers waiting for him in Pages Lane (a private road leading to White House Farm), some two hundred yards from the farmhouse itself. The time was approximately 3.40 am.
PC Saxby knew Jeremy from a car accident he’d attended in which Jeremy had been involved the previous year. It was the senior officer however, Sergeant Bews, who approached Jeremy, and asked for clarification regarding Nevill Bamber’s desperate phone call. Bews wanted to know what Jeremy meant by ‘The phone went dead’?
‘It sounded as though someone had put their finger on it to cut it off.’
Bews, Myall and Jeremy then headed towards the farmhouse, leaving PC Saxby by the car. As they walked, Bews queried whether or not Sheila was likely to go berserk with a gun.
Jeremy replied that he didn’t know, but that it was quite possible. ‘She’s a nutter. She’s been having treatment.’
As they neared the farmhouse, Bews asked: ‘Why did your father phone you and not the police - if there was trouble?’
On the surface it appeared a simple question; but explaining the complex nature of his family’s existence and Sheila’s current life was a task too daunting for Jeremy at that point in time. Sheila, like Jeremy, had been adopted by Nevill and June. She had twin sons, Nicholas and Daniel, six years of age, and some people had questioned her fitness as a mother. This wasn’t the first time Sheila had ‘gone crazy.’ For necessary brevity, Jeremy explained that his father wasn’t the sort of person to get officialdom involved. The family had always been intent on keeping its dirty linen private, and Sheila in particular had taken pains to keep her ‘problems’ hidden – even from other members of family. Nevill was very conscious of the family name and image. All of Sheila’s and June’s psychiatric treatment had been private.
Bews then asked a question Jeremy would be asked a thousand times in the future: ‘Why didn’t you dial 999 instead of trying two police stations?’
Jeremy said he was ignorant of proper police procedure. Nor did he think it would make any real difference to the time it would take for local officers to get to the farmhouse. In truth, he hadn’t wished to dial 999 in case it was not an emergency situation; the police had never been called in the past and the arrival of vehicles with flashing lights and sirens could make what was perhaps a manageable situation an extremely embarrassing one. Instead he had telephoned Chelmsford Police Station.
The three men reached the farmyard at the side of the house. The eighteenth-century farmhouse was a handsome Georgian-style building, its white walls thick with ivy that flitted with the slight breeze that was blowing, making the darkened house seem alive.
The front of the house was in total darkness. The only sound was that of a small dog whining from inside the farmhouse. In the window above the front door, there was a sudden flash of movement, a shadow. The three men quickly took cover.
This ‘shadow’ would be a matter of controversy in the future. Like nearly everything else that could indicate Sheila was still alive while Jeremy was effectively in police custody, the jury at Jeremy’s trial never got the truth regarding the ‘shadow’ incident. Later, the police would claim that what they had seen was ‘a trick of the light.’ This ‘trick of light’ spooked the three men enough for them to run back to where PC Saxby was sitting patiently in the police car in Pages Lane.
In his witness statement, PC Saxby said: ‘… all three came running back from the direction of the farmhouse and PS Bews contacted Information Room… and gave a situation report.’ (Despite repeated requests, Essex police refuse to hand over the details compiled in the aforementioned situation report.)
Jeremy was again asked about his sister’s state of mind.
The answer could have filled a book, thought Jeremy. He told the policeman that Sheila was a depressive psychopath; that she’d been having psychiatric treatment, and that ‘she only came out of hospital about six weeks ago.’ She had just come down from London to share a holiday at the farm with the twins.
There’s no doubt that Sheila’s life was out of control. Her marriage had failed. A brief modelling career had ended in drugs and debt. She’d suffered a mental breakdown and was on medication for her schizophrenia. There had been psychotic relapses in the recent past.
Bews and Myall made a third expedition to the farmhouse, this time alone. When they returned, the decision was made to call in experts from the Tactical Firearms Unit (TFU). In 1985, the rules regulating the issuing of firearms to police officers were very strict indeed. Permission for the withdrawal of firearms had to be authorised by a Chief Superintendent and confirmed by the Deputy Chief Constable. To persuade them to give their authority the situation had to meet a number of criteria of the most serious nature. There are myriad interesting points regarding the police decision to call for the TFU, and Essex police would later refuse to disclose any of the communications that were sent back from the police officers at the farm to HQ from the time Jeremy and the first officers approached the house until the call for the TFU was made. We know several communications were relayed, but by year 2006, Essex police continue to refuse anybody access to the audio tapes of what was actually said.
Jeremy was asked draw a plan of White House Farm and a list the people inside the farmhouse. He wrote down the following:
Sheila Bamber, Sister; June Bamber, Mum; Nevill Bamber, Dad; Daniel Caffell, Twin Boy; Nicholas Caffell, Twin Boy; Small Dog.
He was then asked to list all the weapons he believed were in the house. He wrote down:
.22 Rifle semi auto; 3 x Double Barrel Shotgun, maybe 4; .22 Rifle Bolt Action; 410 Single Barrel Shotgun; .22 Air Rifle.
To the casual observer the armoury may appear excessive, but it wasn’t particularly unusual for a traditional farming family in the region. Jeremy affirmed that the weapons were all most likely loaded, and mentioned the automatic .22 he had left in the kitchen the night before certainly was. This was the infamous German-made Anschutz rifle - the weapon that the police would later claim had shot all twenty-five bullets, killing the five people inside the house.
For Jeremy, the time passed with interminable slowness. At 5 a.m., an armed squad of officers from Essex Police Tactical Firearms Unit arrived at the scene. Jeremy was informed that the TFU would wait until day-break to storm the house because they feared a hostage situation. After being told of the potential gravity of the situation, Jeremy was accompanied to the village centre where he made a brief phone call to his girlfriend before returning to the farm. He was told that all attempts to make contact with the Bamber household failed. Some police memories have him as ‘cold and unworried’, others, like PC Lay found him relatively calm, but saw that from time to time he was on the verge of tears. A female officer at the scene recorded that he was crying openly.
Jeremy’s designated police minders tried to ease the young man’s fears and engaged him in conversation. At one point, Jeremy mentioned his interest in purchasing a Porsche. At trial the following year, the prosecution alleged that Jeremy wished to purchase a new Porsche, at a cost of many tens of thousands of pounds. They told the jury that this planned extravagant expenditure indicated prior knowledge that he was soon to inherit his parent’s wealth. The prosecution’s claim was inaccurate; Jeremy did plan to buy a car but the vehicle in question was a replica Porsche kit car, at a cost of approximately £2000. Jeremy could afford such a vehicle without the inheritance money. The police later confirmed it was a replica car from interviewing the manufacturer (Covan Turbo) that Jeremy had contacted. Under cross-examination PC Myall agreed that cars were just ‘one of many topics’ he and Jeremy discussed ‘to keep his mind as far away from the house… as possible.’
Another incident occurred that morning which never saw the light of day. PC Mercer (dog handler) had brought with him to the farm his Alsatian dog which was specially trained to ‘sniff’ for explosives, firearms or signs that a person had recently handled a firearm. The police would claim Jeremy – only a few hours earlier – had discharged twenty-five rounds and reloaded at least twice during the attack. The sniffer dog approached Jeremy and carried out his trained role without a positive result.
Around the farm, tension increased as it got light. PS Adams, leader of the TFU, shouted challenges through a loudhailer, but from inside the house – according to the police – there was no human response.
More police vehicles arrived at the scene. At a quarter to seven, two police crew buses pulled up, loaded with officers carrying rifles and wearing flak jackets. Armed officers took up strategic positions around the farmhouse.
WPC Jeapes was a trained firearms instructor who had arrived at the scene with the second team of armed officers led by Inspector Montgomery. At about 7.15 a.m. Jeapes saw a rifle leaning against the main bedroom window and made a note of it in her pocketbook. This is interesting, because at that point no police officer had entered the farmhouse and neither Jeremy, Sergeant Bews or PC Myall – who had all looked through that very same window – had noticed the gun. Nobody got to hear about this gun for nineteen years because WPC Jeapes’ witness statement was conveniently placed in the ‘Undisclosed Material’ file.
At 7.25 a.m. Jeremy was led down the back drive to the second line of police vehicles in Pages Lane. Two police officers crept to the kitchen window and peered inside, hoping to get a fix of the situation; there were no signs of life. Six armed members of the raid team approached the external kitchen door, keeping themselves close to the wall, and covered by other marksmen crouching out of sight. It had been decided that this was the best form of entry; the front door to the farmhouse was made of thick, solid wood and flanked by windows, making the police easy targets for anyone inside with a gun.
At approximately 7.30 a.m. the signal was given. The raid team - led by Sergeant Peter Woodcock wielding a heavy sledgehammer - forced their way through the external kitchen door which had been found to be locked and cautiously entered the farmhouse. Few could imagine the horrors they would find inside.