UK Justice Forum

Other High Profile Cases and Persons of Interest => The murder of landscape architect Joanna Yeates in Bristol in December 2010. => Topic started by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:08:21 PM

Title: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:08:21 PM
Joanna Clare Yeates (19 April 1985 – 17 December 2010) was a landscape architect from Hampshire, England, who went missing on 17 December 2010 in Bristol after an evening out with colleagues. Following a highly publicised appeal for information on her whereabouts and intensive police enquiries, her body was discovered on 25 December 2010 in Failand, North Somerset. A post-mortem examination determined that she had been strangled.


Murder victim and landscape architect Joanna Yeates.

The murder inquiry, codenamed Operation Braid, was one of the largest police investigations ever undertaken in the Bristol area. The case dominated news coverage in the United Kingdom around the Christmas period as Yeates' family sought assistance from the public through social networking services and press conferences. Rewards amounting to 60,000 were offered for information leading to those responsible for Yeates' death. The police initially suspected and arrested Christopher Jefferies, Yeates' landlord, who lived in a flat in the same building. He was subsequently released without charge.

Vincent Tabak, a 32-year-old Dutch engineer and neighbour of Yeates, was arrested on 20 January 2011. Media attention at the time centred on the filming of a re-enactment of her disappearance for the BBC's programme, Crimewatch. After two days of questioning, Tabak was charged on 22 January 2011 with Yeates' murder. On 5 May 2011, he pleaded guilty to Yeates' manslaughter, but denied murdering her. His trial started on 4 October 2011; he was found guilty of murder on 28 October 2011, and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years.

Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:13:44 PM
Background and disappearance

Joanna Clare Yeates was born on the 19 April 1985 to David and Teresa Yeates in Hampshire, England. She was privately educated at Embley Park near Romsey. Yeates studied for her A-levels at Peter Symonds College and graduated with a degree in landscape architecture from Writtle College. She received her Postgraduate diploma in landscape architecture from the University of Gloucestershire.

In December 2008, Yeates met then-25-year-old architect Greg Reardon at the firm Hyland Edgar Driver in Winchester. The couple moved in together in 2009, and settled in Bristol when the company moved there. Yeates later changed jobs to work at the Building Design Partnership in Bristol. She moved into a flat with Reardon at 44 Canynge Road in the city's Clifton suburb in October 2010.


                                                            Joanna Yeates with boyfriend Greg Reardon.

At approximately 8:00 pm on 19 December 2010, Reardon returned home from a weekend visit to Sheffield to find Yeates absent from their flat on Canynge Road, Clifton. Reardon had been trying to contact her by phone and text, but without success. While awaiting Yeates' return, Reardon called her again, but her mobile phone rang from a pocket of her coat, which was still in the flat. He found that her purse and keys were also at the flat, and that their cat appeared to have been neglected. Shortly after half past midnight, Reardon contacted the police and Yeates' parents to report her missing.

Investigators determined Yeates had spent the evening of the 17 December 2010 with colleagues at the Bristol Ram pub on Park Street, leaving at around 8:00 pm to begin the 30-minute walk home. She told friends and colleagues that she was not looking forward to spending the weekend alone as it would be her first in the flat without Reardon; she planned to spend her time baking in preparation for a party the couple would be throwing the following week, she also planned to do some shopping for Christmas. Yeates was seen on closed-circuit television (CCTV) at around 8:10 pm leaving a Waitrose supermarket without purchasing anything. She phoned her best friend, Rebecca Scott, at 8:30 pm to arrange a meeting on Christmas Eve. The last known footage of Yeates recorded her buying a pizza from a branch of Tesco Express at around 8:40 pm. She had also bought two small bottles of cider at a nearby off-licence, Bargain Booze.
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:16:33 PM
Search, public appeal, and discovery of a body

Reardon and Yeates' friends set up a website and used social networking services in an attempt to find her.On 21 December 2010, Yeates' parents and Reardon made a public appeal for her safe return at a police press conference. In another press conference, broadcast live on the 23 December 2010 by both Sky News and the BBC, Yeates' father David commented on her disappearance: "I think she was abducted after getting home to her flat ... I have no idea of the circumstances of the abduction because of what was left behind ... I feel sure she would not have gone out by herself leaving all these things behind and she was taken away somewhere". Her keys, phone, purse and coat were left behind at her flat. Detectives retrieved a receipt for a pizza, but found no sign of it or of its packaging. Both bottles of cider were found in the flat, one of them partially consumed. As there was no evidence of forced entry or a struggle, investigators began to examine the possibility that Yeates may have known her abductor.

On Christmas Day 2010, a fully clothed body was found in the snow by a couple walking their dogs along Longwood Lane near a golf course and next to the entrance of a quarry in Failand, approximately 3 miles from Yeates' home. The body was identified by police as that of Yeates. Reardon and the Yeates family visited the site of the discovery on the 27 December 2010. David Yeates said that the family "had been told to prepare for the worst" and expressed relief that his daughter's body had been recovered.

Funeral arrangements were delayed as investigators retained the body for tests. The pathologist Dr Nat Carey consented to the release of the body on the 31 January 2011.
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:21:07 PM

The investigation, called "Operation Braid", comprised 80 detectives and civilian staff under the direction of Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, a senior officer with Avon and Somerset Constabulary's major crime investigation unit. It became one of the largest police operations in the Constabulary's history. Jones urged the public to come forward with any information to help catch the killer, especially potential witnesses who were in the vicinity of Longwood Lane in Failand in the period before Yeates' body was discovered. He stated that the investigation was seeking the driver of a "light-coloured 4x4 vehicle" for questioning.

Jones said that officers had been "inundated with thousands of calls" and were "exhausting every lead and avenue that [they were] provided with." Police examined over 100 hours of surveillance footage along with 293 tonnes (293,000 kg) of rubbish seized from the area around Yeates' flat. Crime Stoppers offered a 10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her murderer, while The Sun newspaper offered 50,000. Authorities advised people living in the area to secure their homes, and warned women not to walk alone after dark. Speaking on the 29 December about the murder investigation Yeates' father said, "I fear that whoever has done this will never hand themselves in, but we live in hope that the police will catch who is responsible."
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:25:46 PM
Post mortem and initial enquiries

Following the discovery of Yeates' body, detectives from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary issued an appeal for anyone with information about the death to come forward and investigated similarities with other unsolved cases. Of particular interest to them were those of 20-year-old Glenis Carruthers who was strangled in 1974, Melanie Hall, aged 25, who disappeared in 1996 and whose body was discovered thirteen years later, and 35-year-old Claudia Lawrence who went missing in 2009. Investigators identified "striking similarities" between the Yeates and Hall cases, notably their age and appearance, and that they had disappeared after returning home from meeting friends, but the possibility of such connections was later downplayed by the authorities. The police gathered surveillance video from Clifton Suspension Bridge, which forms part of the most direct route from the crime scene to the Clifton suburb where Yeates was last seen alive. The footage was of poor quality, making it impossible to clearly distinguish individuals or car registration numbers. Investigators were aware that the perpetrator could have used an alternative bridge across the River Avon less than a mile to the south to avoid CCTV coverage.

A post mortem examination began on the 26 December 2010, though results were delayed due to the frozen condition of the body. Police initially thought it possible that Yeates froze to death because her body showed no visible signs of injury. Investigators announced on the 28 December 2010 that the case had become a murder inquiry as the pathologist who performed her autopsy determined that Yeates had died as a result of strangulation. The post mortem indicated that she had died "... several days before being discovered" on the 25 December 2010. The examination also confirmed that Yeates did not eat the pizza she had purchased. Detective Chief Inspector Jones stated that the investigation found "... no evidence to suggest that Joanna was sexually assaulted". The police searched Reardon's laptop computer and mobile phone as part of their standard procedure. Reardon was sbsequently ruled out as a suspect and thereafter treated as a witness.

A young woman attending a party at a neighbouring house on Canynge Road on the night of Yeates' disappearance recalled hearing two loud screams shortly after 9:00 pm coming from the direction of Yeates' flat. Another neighbour who lived behind Yeates' home said that he heard a woman's voice scream "Help me", although he could not recall exactly when the incident had occurred. Officers removed the front door to Yeates' flat to check for clothing fibres and DNA evidence, with investigators examining the possibility that the perpetrator had entered the flat before Yeates returned home.
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:27:38 PM
Further enquiries

Senior officers from the investigation asked for assistance from the National Policing Improvement Agency, which provides expertise for difficult cases. On 4 January 2011, a clinical forensic psychologist, who had previously been involved as a criminal profiler in other high profile murder cases, joined the investigation to help narrow down the number of potential suspects.[60] Jones stated that his officers had established over 1,000 lines of inquiry.[31][61] Jones said, "I can assure you, we are determined to solve this crime and bring Jo's killers to justice."[62] On 5 January, Detective Chief Inspector Jones announced that one of Yeates' socks was missing when she was found dead and that it had not been found at the crime scene or in her home.[63]

Police launched a national advertising campaign to appeal for witnesses through Facebook. The page, established on the 4 January, had been viewed nearly 250,000 times by the following day, while CCTV footage of Yeates had been viewed 120,000 times on YouTube by the 5 January.

On the 9 January 2011, Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy gave her support to the idea of a public DNA screening process if the police found it useful. The Avon and Somerset Constabulary had conducted mass DNA screening during the 1995 investigation into the disappearance of Louise Smith. McCarthy suggested that the screening process should be extended beyond Clifton to the wider Bristol area. DNA that had been found on Yeates' body was tested for a potential profile. Detectives also began tracking the movements of several hundred registered sex offenders living within their jurisdiction to determine the individuals' whereabouts on the 17 December.
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:32:33 PM
Arrests and reconstruction of crime

Shortly after 7:00 am on the 30 December 2010, Christopher Jefferies, Yeates' landlord who lived in the same building, was arrested on suspicion of her murder. He was taken to a local police station for questioning while forensic investigators inspected his flat. On the 31 December, a senior police officer granted investigators a 12-hour extension to the arrest, enabling them to hold him in custody for additional questioning. Police subsequently applied to magistrates for further extensions which were granted on the 31 December and the 1 January. Investigators were able to detain him as a suspect for up to 96 hours but released Jefferies on bail after two days. He retained the legal services of the law firm Stokoe Partnership to act on his behalf. On the 4 March 2011, police released him from bail and stated he was no longer a suspect. He subsequently won an undisclosed sum in libel damages for defamatory news articles published following his arrest, and received an apology from Avon and Somerset Police for any distress caused to him during the investigation.


                                                  Landlord and initial police suspect, Chris Jefferies.

In January 2011, a reconstruction of the case was filmed on location in Bristol for broadcast in the 26 January edition of the BBC television programme Crimewatch. Snow Business, a Gloucestershire-based firm that had been involved in the production of the Harry Potter films was contracted to reproduce the snowy conditions at the time of Yeates' disappearance. The reconstruction of Yeates' last movements was filmed on the 18 January, and within 24 hours of news coverage about the production, over 300 people contacted the police. A breakthrough led investigators to believe that Yeates' body might have been transported in a large holdall or suitcase.

On the morning of the 20 January 2011, Avon and Somerset Constabulary arrested 32-year-old Dutch engineer Vincent Tabak, who lived with his girlfriend in the flat next door to Yeates. However, authorities declined to reveal additional details while the suspect was being interrogated due to concerns over controversial media coverage of Jefferies' arrest, which had breached the rules governing what can be reported when an individual is arrested. The Tabak arrest followed an anonymous tip from a female caller, shortly after a televised appeal by Yeates' parents on Crimewatch. Canynge Road was closed by police while scaffolding was constructed around Yeates' home and officers sealed off Tabak's adjacent flat. Investigators also searched the nearby townhouse of a friend where Tabak was believed to have been staying about a mile away. Tabak had previously been ruled out as a suspect during an earlier stage of the investigation, and had returned to Britain from a holiday visit to his family in the Netherlands.


                 Vincent Tabak with girlfriend Tanja Morson whose family later said she had a lucky escape.

Following Tabak's arrest, the BBC cancelled its plans to air the Yeates re-enactment on Crimewatch. On the 31 January, previously unseen photos of Yeates were released through the programme's website.
Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:33:32 PM
DNA tests

DNA tests were carried out by LGC Forensics, a private company which undertakes forensic analysis for criminal investigations. Lindsey Lennen, a body fluids and DNA specialist member of the team that analysed DNA samples from Yeates' body, said that although DNA swabs matched Tabak, they were not of sufficient quality to be evaluated. The team deployed a method known as DNA SenCE, which enhances unusable DNA samples through purification and concentration: "We couldn't say whether the DNA was from saliva, or semen, or even touch. But we could say that the probability of it not being a match with Tabak was less than one in a billion."


                                               Dutch engineer Vincent Tabak.

Murder charge and plea

After questioning during 96 hours of detention, Tabak was charged on the 22 January 2011 with the murder of Joanna Yeates. He made a brief appearance at Bristol's Magistrates' Court on the 24 January and was remanded in custody. Tabak, legally represented by Paul Cook, declined to request bail during a hearing the following day. Tabak was moved from Bristol Prison because of fears for his safety and was placed under suicide watch at Long Lartin Prison near Evesham. Tabak's family and friends in the Netherlands started to raise funds for his court defence.

Tabak initially maintained he was not responsible for Joanna Yeates' death, claiming that DNA evidence linking him to the crime had been fabricated by corrupt officials. However, on the 8 February, he told Peter Brotherton, a prison chaplain, that he had killed her and intended to plead guilty.

On the 5 May 2011, Vincent Tabak pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Yeates, but denied murdering her. His plea of guilty to manslaughter was rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service. On the 20 September, Tabak appeared in person at a pre-trial hearing at Bristol Crown Court. Appearances at previous hearings had been made via videolink from prison.

Title: Re: Introduction to the Joanna Yeates case.
Post by: John on March 29, 2017, 12:42:28 PM

The trial of Vincent Tabak started on the 4 October 2011 at the Crown Court at Bristol before Mr Justice Field. His counsel in the trial was William Clegg QC and the prosecutor was Nigel Lickley QC. Tabak pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but denied murder.

The prosecution case was that Tabak strangled Yeates at her flat within minutes of her arrival home on 17 December 2010 using "sufficient force" to kill her. The prosecutors stated that Tabak – around a foot taller than Yeates – had used his height and build to overpower her, pinning her to the floor by the wrists, and that she had suffered 43 separate injuries to her head, neck, torso and arms during the struggle. The injuries included cuts, bruises, and a fractured nose. Lickley told the court that the struggle was lengthy, and her death would have been slow and painful. However, he did not offer an explanation for the reasoning behind Tabak's initial attack on Yeates.

Evidence was presented that Tabak had tried to conceal the crime by disposing of her body. The court heard that DNA swabs taken from Yeates' body had provided a match with Tabak. Samples found behind the knees of her jeans indicated she may have been held by the legs as she was carried, while fibres suggested contact with Tabak's coat and car. Blood stains were found on a wall overlooking a quarry close to where Yeates was discovered. The prosecution also said that Tabak attempted to implicate Jefferies for the murder during the police investigation, and that in the days following Yeates' death, he had made internet searches for topics that included the length of time a body takes to decompose and the dates of refuse collections in the Clifton area.

In his defence, Tabak claimed that the killing had not been sexually motivated and told the court that he had killed Yeates while trying to silence her after she screamed when he tried to kiss her. He claimed that Yeates had made a "flirty comment" and invited him to drink with her. He said that after she screamed he held his hands over her mouth and around her neck to silence her. He denied suggestions of a struggle, claiming to have held Yeates by the neck with only minimal force, and "... for about 20 seconds". He told the court that after dumping the body he was "... in a state of panic".

The jury was sent out to deliberate on the 26 October and returned with a verdict two days later. On the 28 October 2011, Tabak was found guilty of Joanna Yeates' murder by a 10 to 2 majority verdict. He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 20 years. Passing sentence, Mr Justice Field referred to a "sexual element" to the killing.

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