The Bamber Family
24-year-old Jeremy Bamber was jailed for life for killing five members
of his adopted family at their farmhouse in Essex. Though he still
professes his innocence, Bamber's conviction has been repeatedly upheld.
Among his victims were his two young nephews who were just six years old
when they were killed.
24-year-old Jeremy Bamber was jailed for life for killing five members
of his adopted family at their farmhouse in Essex.
sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for the murders of his step-parents,
sister and her two six-year-old sons Nicholas and Daniel. Sentencing
Bamber to five life prison terms, the judge Mr Justice Drake said he was
"warped and evil beyond belief.
controversial crime was hampered by police setbacks and Bamber remained
a free man on bail living off his dead parents’ finances while
investigations continued. Today he still protests his innocence and, as
recently as 2001, his case was taken back to the Court of Appeal by the
Criminal Cases Review Commission.
House Farm murders read like something out of a crime novel. It had all
the classic ingredients of a whodunit tethered with a vicious ferocity
and cruelty that contrasts with its idyllic setting.
involved brutal murders in the English countryside on a summer's evening
with a cast of characters straight out of a True Crime story. The
victims were two overbearing religious parents, a mentally unstable
daughter, a scheming, envious son, and a jilted girlfriend.
did not have a particularly audacious start in life. He was the
illegitimate son of a vicar's daughter and a married army sergeant.
weeks old he was adopted by wealthy Neville Bamber, a former RAF pilot,
and his wife June, who farmed near the Essex village of Tolleshunt
D'Arcy. A few years later the Bambers adopted another child, Sheila
Caffell, who they nicknamed Bambi.
Materialistically both the children wanted for nothing and were given a
private education. But they also had to endure strict discipline imposed
by their devoutly Christian parents.
had no interest in his father’s business, hated the farm and the farming
world, and instead drifted through a series of jobs. He was however
extremely flamboyant and used his affluent background as a means to
impress women with a pseudo ‘playboy’ image he honed to perfection.
adult, Sheila was attractive enough to start a promising career as a
model and her parents paid for a flat in London where she hoped to
become a success.
married and had twin boys, but when the marriage broke down she became
depressed and began to suffer from illness developing into
schizophrenia. One psychiatric report mentions that at times she
believed her children were from the devil. Because of her problems
Sheila and the twins moved back to the farmhouse with her parents.
time, Bamber lived with his student-teacher girlfriend Julie Mugford.
They shared a rent-free cottage provided by his parents at Goldhanger, a
few miles from the main farmhouse.
offered Bamber a job on the farm paying him £170 a week. It certainly
wasn’t the glamorous position that the young man was desperate for and
even his request to run the caravan site owned by the family were
dismissed as Neville believed his son had no business sense.
hated the farm but his father’s will cut him off unless he stayed a
farmer. He wanted the life of a ‘playboy’ and was determined to live it,
at any cost. He also despised his stepmother June for preaching religion
at him and he had never forgiven both parents for sending him away to
7th, 1985 at 3.26am Bamber rang the police to report that his father had
just phoned frantically to say Sheila was going berserk with a
police broke in to the farmhouse they found several bodies and a scene
of near carnage. Neville’s corpse, bludgeoned and shot, lay downstairs
in a pool of blood. It appeared that he had been shot upstairs but had
been beaten as he struggled to the kitchen to summon help.
bullet-riddled body was in a bedroom and Sheila's twins had each been
shot several times in the head while in their sleep, one of them still
sucking his thumb. Sheila, who was also in a bedroom, had been shot in
the throat and was clutching a .22 rifle and a bible.
had a long documented history of illness and it seemed clear to the
police that she had shot her parents, children and then finally herself.
Bamber was interviewed at the scene of the crime he appeared genuinely
distressed and was comforted by an officer and given tea and whiskey.
convinced were the police by Bamber’s insistence that his sister
perpetrated the dreadful act, that they even agreed to burn carpets and
bedding in the house at Bamber’s request. Soon the press were reporting
the sensational story.
had always wanted fame as a model and ironically she had now won it,
briefly, on the front pages of the tabloids as an alleged mass murderer.
police thought they were dealing with four murders and one suicide. They
had been aware of Shelia’s mental health problems and when Bamber had
made out that his disturbed sister had gone crazy there seemed no reason
to question his story. However, the young man’s cavalier behaviour soon
began to arouse suspicion.
funeral nine days later, Bamber let his vanity betray him by admitting
that his only worry was that the cameras should catch his best profile.
He put on a tearful performance at the graveside but afterwards he went
out for a meal with friends to celebrate, not thinking twice about how
this would appear.
even noted that on the day of the killings the police had passed Bamber
driving to the scene at a casual 30mph - hardly the actions of a
distressed son concerned about his family.
when Bamber told his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, that he had hired a
hitman for £2,000 she reported this comment to the police.
this throw-away comment, the evidence against Bamber remained
circumstantial. Although Bamber's fingerprints had been found on the
murder weapon, alongside those of Sheila, there was no other forensic
evidence to link him to the killings - in large part due to the fact
that police had allowed the crime scene to be cleared.
meantime Bamber enjoyed a life of luxury, spending his parents’ money
and even going on holiday to Amsterdam.
his behaviour was now being closely watched, Bamber appeared unaffected
and detached from the traumatic events. His sister’s modelling photos
were all he wanted as a keepsake - so he could offer them for sale.
turned him down but the likes of The Sun publicly demonstrated its
disdain by brandishing front-page headlines with ‘Bambi Brother In Photo
the lack of evidence against him, the investigation unveiled a quandary
with regard to the murder weapon. Without a silencer, the 25 shots that
were fired would have made too much noise and would have alerted the
victims to the danger. Yet if a silencer was attached to the weapon, it
would have been too long for Sheila to have shot herself.
startling realisation seemed to rule out the theory that Sheila had
taken her own life, and therefore the possibility that she had been
responsible for the other murders. Whoever committed the crime would
have had to take the silencer off before they left the house after
carrying out the killings.
David Boutflour, Bamber’s cousin, who found the silencer in a cupboard
at the farm, still with traces of Sheila’s blood on it alongside a
single grey hair.
before forensics could study the hair, it had been lost. What was now
certain was that Sheila had not committed suicide but had been murdered.
This confirmation meant that Bamber’s call to the police, saying that
she was running amok, was a lie.
September 29th, 1985, Bamber was arrested and charged with murder.
commenced at Chelmsford crown court on October14th, 1986.
Bamber’s girlfriend Julie Mugford was the star witness.
alleged that Bamber had made murderous threats against his father. She
told the court that Bamber had made the reference that his "old" father,
"mad" mother and sister had "nothing to live for". It was then that he
spoke of arson and later a desire to hire a hit man.
were two explanations for the killings. The first was the prosecution
case that Bamber entered the Essex farmhouse owned by his mother and
father at night and shot the five members of his family with a legally
blood was in the silencer of the murder weapon, proving that she could
not have shot herself then put it in a cupboard downstairs.
second explanation, put forward by the defence, was that Sheila, who had
a history of psychiatric illness, had shot the four members of her
family with the rifle and then committed suicide.
initial stages the police thought it likely that the second explanation
was correct. Some officers, however, thought that some of the findings
were inconsistent with this explanation and members of the Bambers’
extended family did not believe that it was consistent with their
knowledge of Sheila.
mounting evidence, Bamber remained confident that he would leave court a
free man. However, the jury at Chelmsford crown court delivered a guilty
verdict by ten to two.
was handed five life sentences, with a recommendation that he stay in
prison for at least 25 years without parole. After the sentencing, Mr
Justice Drake said:
it difficult to foresee whether it will ever be safe to release someone
who can shoot two little boys as they lie asleep in their beds.”
noted the problems that had taken place during initial enquiries and
throughout the main police investigations.
major error in this case was the police allowing the house be cleared
shortly after the killings. The house itself had been cleaned and the
carpets and bedclothes burned on instruction of Bamber.
fingerprints were eventually discovered on the bible and gun left on
Sheila’s body, but were missed during the initial enquiries.
also revealed that while Bamber had said that he received a
panic-stricken phone call from his father, Neville had actually been
shot in the throat in the upstairs of the house and couldn’t have made
such a call.
catalogue of blunders led the trial judge Mr Justice Drake to comment
“The perfunctory examination is only explicable because the police
thought there was nothing to solve.
needed to finance his ‘playboy’ lifestyle. If his plan had succeeded he
would have received his parents’ leasehold farm, other prime land, the
contents of the main house which he had reinsured and half a share in a
holiday home caravan site. The total of the estate was estimated at
was told by his trial judge, that he was "warped and evil" and added
that he found it difficult to imagine anyone agreeing to release Bamber
from jail in the future
been told by each Home Secretary since his conviction that he will never
gain his freedom through parole, although Bamber has always pleaded his
innocence and has seen two appeals against his convictions rejected.
2001 a team of police officers were given four months to complete fresh
enquiries into the case. It was referred back to the Court of Appeal by
the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates possible
miscarriages of justice.
Bamber angered his relatives when he offered £1m as a reward for any
information that would help quash his conviction.
December 2002 he lost his appeal against his conviction and also lost a
High Court case regarding a claim for £1.27m from his grandmother’s will
that he thought he was entitled to.
Bamber was attacked by a fellow prisoner with a knife while talking on
the phone and needed twenty stitches.
The Crime &
Jeremy Nevill Bamber (born 13 January
1961) was convicted in England in 1986 of having murdered five
members of his adoptive family—his father, mother, sister, and her
six-year-old twin sons—at his parents' home at White House Farm,
Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex, in the early hours of 7 August 1985. He
was sentenced to five life terms with a recommendation that he serve
at least 25 years, and in 1994 the Home Secretary ruled he must
spend the rest of his life in jail. Bamber has protested his
innocence over the years, believed to be the only prisoner in the UK
serving a whole-life tariff to do so.
The Times wrote that the case had all the
ingredients of a classic whodunit: a massacre in the English countryside,
overbearing parents, an unstable daughter, a scheming son, a jilted
girlfriend, and bungling police.
The police at first believed Bamber's sister, Sheila
Caffell—diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder—had shot her family
then turned the gun on herself. Her sons had been living with their
father, but had been visiting the Bambers with Sheila when the killings
occurred. According to Bamber, she feared she would lose custody of them;
she also told a psychiatrist two years earlier that she thought the
devil had taken her over.
When an ex-girlfriend stepped forward weeks after the
murders to say Bamber had implicated himself, the police view swiftly
changed, though some of the forensic evidence had already been
compromised or destroyed. The prosecution argued that, motivated by a
large inheritance, Bamber had killed the family and 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 when it was fired would
have made it too long, they argued, for her fingers to reach the trigger
to shoot herself.
Bamber has several times asked the Criminal Cases
Review Commission (CCRC) to refer his case to the Court of Appeal; a
referral in 2001 saw the conviction upheld. In 2004 and 2009, his
defence team submitted what they said was new evidence to the CCRC,
including a report from a photographic expert, who said that scratch
marks on a mantelpiece—said to have been caused during a struggle for
the gun—were not in the crime-scene photographs, but were visible only
in photographs taken 34 days later.
Their submissions also included the log of a phone
call made to police on the night of the murders, during which a Mr
Bamber said his daughter had gone "berserk," and had stolen one of his
guns. Bamber had told police that he had received a similar call from
his father, but was unable to prove it; 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 was that he was the killer
In February 2011 the CCRC provisionally rejected the
latest submissions. Bamber's extended family have said they remain
convinced of his guilt.
Nevill and June Bamber
Ralph Nevill Bamber (known as Nevill), aged 61
when he died, was a farmer, local magistrate, and former RAF pilot.
He and his wife, June (also 61), married in 1949 and moved into
White House Farm, a Georgian house in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex.
Unable to have biological children, they adopted two, Sheila and
Jeremy, who were not related to each other. Nevill was described in
court as 6' 4" tall and in good physical health, a point that became
significant because Bamber's story is that Sheila, a slender girl of
26, was able to beat and subdue her father, something the
prosecution contested. The Times writes that the couple was
wealthy and gave the children a private education, but they took
their Christian beliefs to the point of zealotry, and the children
reportedly faced harsh discipline. June suffered from depression and
was treated in a psychiatric hospital in 1982, and the court heard
that her interest in religion had become obsessive.
Sheila, Nicholas, and Daniel Caffell
Sheila Jean Caffell (born 1957, aged 28 when she
died) was adopted a few years later than Bamber. She attended
secretarial college, then worked in London as a model, living in a
flat in Maida Vale that Nevill and June paid for. She married Colin
Caffell in May 1977, and the twins Nicholas and Daniel were born in
June 1979. The couple divorced in May 1982.
Like June, Sheila was intensely religious. Her GP had
referred her on 3 August 1983 to Dr Hugh Ferguson, a psychiatrist at St.
Andrew's Hospital in Northampton. Ferguson said she was in an agitated
and psychotic state and admitted her, diagnosing a schizoaffective
disorder characterized by disturbance of thinking and perception. He
said she was paranoid, struggling with the concept of good and evil, and
believed the devil had taken her over and given her the power to project
evil onto others, including her sons; she believed she could make them
have sex and cause violence with her. She also believed she was capable
of murdering them, or of getting them to kill others. She spoke about
suicide, though he did not regard her as a suicide risk. She was
discharged on 10 September 1983 and treated with Stelazine, an anti-psychotic
drug. Because of her mental-health problems, her sons lived with their
father, though she continued to see them.
On 3 March 1985 she was re-admitted to St Andrew's,
apparently very disturbed. She again spoke about good and evil, this
time related to religious ideas, and not with reference to her children
or parents. She was discharged on 29 March 1985, and thereafter received
monthly injections of Haloperidol, an anti-psychotic that also has a
sedative effect. After the killings, Ferguson said that kind of violence
was not consistent with his view of her, though he said she had
expressed disturbed feelings towards her mother. June's sister, Pamela
Boutflour, testified that Sheila was not a violent person, and said she
had never known her to use a gun. June's niece, Ann Eaton, said Sheila "would
not know one end of the barrel of a gun to another". Bamber disputed
this, telling police that he and Sheila had gone target shooting
together, though he acknowledged in court that he had not seen her fire
a gun as an adult. Her ex-husband said she had been prone to outbursts
that had involved throwing pots and pans, and occasionally hitting him,
but to his knowledge she had never harmed the children.
Sheila and her ex-husband, Colin Caffell, had joint
custody of the boys (born 22 June 1979, aged six when they died), though
he had complained that her mental health was affecting her ability to
look after them, and that he was doing 95 percent of the work. He also
disliked the effect June Bamber's religious ideas might be having on
them; she apparently made the boys kneel and pray with her, which upset
him. The boys had been briefly placed in foster care in 1982 and 1983 in
Camden, London, near Sheila's home, an arrangement the court heard had
caused no problems, and according to Bamber, the family discussed doing
the same thing again during their evening meal on the night of the
murders, with little response from Sheila.
Bamber (born 1961) was the son of a vicar's
daughter who had an affair with a married army sergeant, and
subsequently gave her baby up for adoption when he was six weeks old.
Nevill and June sent him to Gresham's School, a boarding school in
Norfolk, then college in Colchester. He spent time in Australia and
New Zealand, then returned to England to work on his father's farm
for £170 a week. The Bambers also ran a lucrative caravan site, but
according to The Times they would not let Bamber work there,
saying he had no business sense. He set up home in a cottage at 9
Head Street, Goldhanger, three to three-and-a-half miles from his
parents' farmhouse. Nevill owned the cottage and Bamber lived there
rent-free. It took five minutes to drive by car from the cottage to
his parents' home, and by bicycle 15 minutes at least.
Extended family and financial considerations
The Bamber family was wealthy, and the financial
ties and the issue of inheritance within the immediate and extended
family caused further complications. The prosecution's case was that
Bamber had killed his family to inherit their estate, which included
£436,000, the farm house where the murders took place, 300 acres
(1.2 km2) of land, and a caravan site in Essex called
Osea Road Camp Sites Ltd. Because of his conviction, the estate
passed instead to his cousins, some of whom were involved in finding
the crucial evidence against him—the gun's silencer in the farm's
gun cupboard with a fleck of blood on it. The prosecution said this
showed the silencer was on the gun during the attack, and that
Sheila's arms were not long enough to reach the trigger to kill
herself with the silencer on it; therefore she must have been
That evidence, which Bamber contests, proved crucial,
and as a result of his conviction the cousins inherited the estate. One
cousin on his mother's side, Ann Eaton, now lives in White House Farm,
and she and several others—Sarah Jane Eaton, Pamela Boutflour, and
Robert Woodwiss Boutflour—own the caravan site.
Bamber has alleged that these financial
considerations meant the extended family, specifically two of the
cousins whom he has named, wanted to see him convicted, and may even
have set him up. The cousins have responded that Bamber is a psychopath,
that his allegations against them over the years are part of an attempt
to harass and vilify them, and that the allegation that they set him up
is "an absolute load of piffle."
Bamber has launched several unsuccessful lawsuits to
recover some of the money. In 2003, he began a High Court action to
recover £1.2m from his adoptive grandmother, Mabel Speakman's, estate.
He told the court he should have inherited Speakman's home at
Carbonnells Farm, Wix, near Clacton, and that he was owed 17 years back
rent for the property from his cousins who were living there. Speakman
cut Bamber out of her will when he was arrested, and most of the
inheritance went to Pamela Boutflour, June Bamber's sister, who
subsequently moved into Carbonnells Farm with her husband Robert.
In 2004, Bamber went back to the High Court to argue
he had been unfairly frozen out of the profits made by the caravan site.
Although at that point no longer a shareholder, he had retained shares
after his conviction, but had sold them to pay legal costs in connection
with the 2003 attempt to claim his grandmother's estate. The High Court
ruled that he was not entitled to any profit from the caravan site
because of his conviction.
The murder weapon
Nevill kept several guns at the farm. He was
reportedly careful with them, cleaning them after use, and made sure not
to leave them lying around. The murder weapon was a .22 Anschütz semi-automatic
rifle, model 525, which Nevill purchased on 30 November 1984, along with
a Parker Hale silencer, telescopic sights, and 500 rounds of ammunition.
The rifle used cartridges, which were loaded into a
magazine that held ten cartridges. Twenty-five shots were fired during
the killing, so if it was fully loaded to begin with it would have been
reloaded at least twice. The court heard that it became progressively
harder to load as the number of cartridges increases; loading the tenth
was described as exceptionally hard. The rifle was used to shoot rabbits
with the silencer and telescopic sights attached.
The court heard that a screwdriver was needed to
remove the sights, but they were normally left in place because it was
time-consuming to realign them. Nevill's nephew, Anthony Pargeter,
visited the farmhouse around 26 July 1985, and told the court he had
seen the rifle with the sights and silencer attached in the gun cupboard
in the ground floor office. Bamber testified that he visited the
farmhouse on the evening of 6 August, and loaded the gun, thinking he
heard rabbits outside, then left it with a full magazine and a box of
ammunition on the kitchen table.
House Farm, 7 August 1985
Sheila's visit and proposed fostering of the boys
On August 4, three days before the murders, Sheila
took the boys to spend a week at the Bambers' farm. The farm's
housekeeper saw Sheila on 5 August and noticed nothing unusual, and she
was seen the next day with her children by two farm workers, Julie and
Leonard Foakes, who said she seemed happy.
One of the photographs taken by police—but which the
defence said in the December 2002 appeal that it could not recall seeing—shows
that someone carved "I hate this place" into the cupboard doors of the
room the twins were sleeping in. Authorship was not established, but the
Court of Appeal accepted that it was probably Sheila who wrote it.
Bamber visited the farm on the evening of 6 August,
and told the court his parents had suggested to Sheila that the boys be
placed in foster care, because of her mental-health problems. The idea
was to do this temporarily, perhaps with a local family near the farm
who could help with the children. Bamber said Sheila did not seem too
bothered by the suggestion, and had simply said she would rather stay in
Her psychiatrist, Dr. Ferguson, told the Court of
Appeal in 2002 that the suggestion would have provoked a strong reaction:
"I would have expected her, were this to be put to her suddenly, to be a
very substantial threat and I would have expected her to react very
strongly to what to her would be the loss of her children. I would not
have expected her to be passive about that." He added that, had the
fostering suggestion been confined to day-time help, Sheila might have
welcomed it. The boys had been in temporary foster care before in London,
which had not appeared to cause a problem.
Barbara Wilson, the farm's secretary, telephoned the
farmhouse at 9.30 p.m. that evening and spoke to Nevill. She said he was
short with her, and Wilson was left with the impression that she had
interrupted an argument. Pamela Boutflour, June Bamber's sister, also
telephoned the house that evening at about 10 p.m. She spoke to Sheila,
who she said was quiet, then to June, who seemed normal.
There was one telephone line and four telephones at
the farm, including two in the kitchen: a cordless phone that had a
memory recall feature, and a digital phone. The cordless had been sent
away for repair, and a phone that was normally in the bedroom had been
moved into the kitchen; this was the one found with its receiver off the
hook, the implication being that someone—Nevill, according to Bamber—had
been interrupted mid-call.
A central issue is whether Nevill telephoned Bamber
before the murders to say Sheila had gone crazy and had a gun. Bamber
said he did receive such a call, and that the line went dead in the
middle of it, which would be consistent with the phone being found off
the hook. The prosecution said he did not receive such a call, and that
his claim to have done so was part of his setting the scene to blame
Sheila. This was one of three key points the jury was asked to consider
by the trial judge during his summing up.
Telephone log 1 (caller self-identified as Mr Bamber)
The police log of a telephone call purporting to
be from Nevill to a local police station at 3:26 a.m. on 7 August
does exist (see image, right), and appears to have been entered as
evidence at the trial, but it was not shown to the jury, or indeed
seen by Bamber's lawyers until at least 2004.
The log is headed "daughter gone berserk," and
says: "Mr Bamber, White House Farm, Tolleshunt d’Arcy—daughter
Sheila Bamber, aged 26 years, has got hold of one of my guns." It
also says: "Mr Bamber has a collection of shotguns and .410s," and
it includes the telephone number 860209, which was the number at the
time for White House Farm. If this telephone call was made by Nevill
Bamber, it would confirm Bamber's story. The log shows that a patrol
car, Charlie Alpha 7 (CA7), was sent to the scene at 3.35 am.
Telephone log 2 (caller self-identified as Jeremy Bamber)
A different police log shows that, 10 minutes
later, at 3:36 am, a caller giving his name as Jeremy Bamber rang
Chelmsford Police Station. It is not known when this call was made,
but the court accepted that the officer who recorded the log misread
a digital clock, and that the call probably came in at around 3:26
am. The caller said he was ringing from his home in Goldhanger, and
that he had just received a phone call from his father. The caller
said: "You've got to help me. My father has rang me and said, 'Please
come over. Your sister has gone crazy and has got the gun.' Then the
line went dead." The caller also said his sister had a history of
psychiatric illness and that there were guns at his father's house.
The operator who took the call contacted the Police Information Room
and a police car was sent to White House Farm. Bamber was asked to
meet the police there. Bamber said he tried to call his father back
but could not get a reply. This second log shows that a different
police car, Charlie Alpha 5 (CA5), was sent to the farmhouse. A
British Telecom operator checked the line to the farm at 4:30 am.
The phone was off the hook, the line was open, and a dog could be
Bamber could not explain why he had called a local
police station and not 999. He told police that night that he had not
thought it would make a difference in terms of how fast they arrived. 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 Julie Mugford in
London, then had driven slowly to the farmhouse. He also said he could
have called one of the farm workers, but had not at the time 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.
outside the farmhouse
After the telephone calls, Bamber made his way to
the farmhouse; a police officer later drove Mugford down from London.
Several police officers were also on their way to the farmhouse. PS
Bews, PC Myall, and PC Saxby drove from Witham Police Station, and
passed Bamber in their car. They told the court that, in their view,
he was driving much more slowly than them, though Bamber's cousin,
Ann Eaton, testified that Bamber was normally a very fast driver.
Bamber arrived at the farmhouse one or two minutes after the police,
then they all waited for a tactical firearms group to arrive, which
turned up at 5 am. 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. They decided to wait until daylight before entering
at 7:54 am through the back door, which had been locked from the
inside. The only sound they reported from the house was a dog
While waiting outside the police questioned Bamber,
who they said seemed calm. He told them about the phone call from his
father, and that it sounded as though someone had cut him off. He said
he did not get along with his sister, and asked whether she might have
gone berserk with the 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 had 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. Bamber told them Sheila was familiar with guns and that they had
gone target shooting together. He said he had been at the farmhouse
himself the night before and had loaded the rifle because he thought he
had heard rabbits outside. He then 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, broke down, cried, and seemed to vomit. The
doctor said Bamber told him at that point about the discussion the
family had had about possibly having Sheila's sons fostered.
When police entered the house, they found five
bodies with multiple gunshot wounds. Twenty-five shots had been
fired, mostly at close range. They said they found Nevill downstairs,
and the other four upstairs. Years later, Bamber's defence team cast
doubt on the position the police say they found the bodies, using
photographs obtained from the police, and suggested the photographs
indicate that Sheila died later than the rest of the family.
The police said they found Nevill downstairs in
the kitchen, dressed in pyjamas, amid a scene that suggested there
had been a struggle, though Bamber's lawyers suggested at appeal
that some or all of the mayhem in the kitchen may have been caused
by the armed police when they broke into the house.
Nevill's body was slumped forward over an overturned
chair next to the fireplace, his head resting just above a coal scuttle.
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. A telephone was lying on one
of the surfaces with its receiver off the hook, and several .22 shells
beside it. He had been shot eight times, six times to the head and face,
which were fired with the rifle 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 were in the kitchen,
and one on the stairs—the police concluded he had been shot four times
upstairs, but had managed to get downstairs where a struggle took place,
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 have had difficulty talking. There were gunshot wounds to
his left shoulder and left elbow. He also had black eyes, a broken nose,
bruising to the cheeks, cuts on the head, bruising to the right forearm,
and circular burn-type marks on his back, consistent with his having
been hit with the rifle. 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
The police said they found the other four bodies
upstairs. June's body was heavily bloodstained. She was found lying on
the floor in the master bedroom by the doorway, wearing her nightdress
and bare-footed. She had been shot seven times; one shot to her forehead
between her eyes, and another to the right side of her head, would have
caused her death quickly. 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 her right knee. The police believed she had been sitting up
during part of the attack, based on the pattern of blood on her clothing.
Five of the shots occurred when the gun was at least a foot from her
body. The shot between her eyes was from less than one foot.
Daniel and Nicholas
The boys were found in their beds, shot through
the head. They appeared to have been shot while in bed. Daniel had
been shot five times, four times with the gun held within one foot
of his head, and once from over two feet away. Nicholas was shot
three times, all contact or close-proximity shots.
Police say they found Sheila on the floor of the
master bedroom with her mother, though this was disputed in 2005 by
Bamber's lawyers.. She was in her nightdress and bare-footed, with
two bullet wounds to her throat. The pathologist, Dr. Peter Vanezis—who
in 1993 became Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at Glasgow
University—said the lower of the injuries occurred from three inches
(76 mm) away, and 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; the
court heard 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 Vanezis that she had not done this. He believed the
lower of her injuries happened first, because it caused bleeding
inside the neck, which would not have happened to the same extent if
the higher, immediately fatal, wound had occurred first. Vanesiz
said the blood stains on her nightdress suggested she was sitting up
when she received both injuries.
According to documents found by Bamber's defence team
in or around 2005—they say they are unsure whether the papers were part
of the original trial bundle, but say they were not seen by the defence—the
first officer to enter the house at 7.34am, PC Peter Woodcock, said of
Sheila in his witness statement on 20 September 1985: "She had what
appeared to be two bullet holes under her chin and blood leaking from
both sides of her mouth down her cheeks." Bamber's lawyers say this is
significant because, in their view, had she been shot before 3:30 am as
the prosecution says, the blood would have dried by 7:30 am; because the
blood was still wet, they argue she was probably shot no more than two
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, which
the court heard is usually the case when handling .22 ammunition. The
rifle magazine would have been loaded at least twice during the killings,
and this would usually leave lubricant and material from the bullets on
the hands. A scenes-of-crimes officer, DC Hammersley, said there were
blood stains on the back of her right hand, but that otherwise they were
clean. There was no blood on the feet (this was disputed in 2005 by the
defence) or other debris such as sugar, which was lying on the floor
downstairs, possibly as a result of the struggle. At postmortem, low
traces of lead were found on her hands and forehead, but the levels were
consistent with the everyday handling of things around the house. A
scientist, Mr Elliott, testified that if she had loaded eighteen
cartridges into a magazine he would expect to see more lead on her hands.
On her nightdress, the blood was consistent with her own, and no trace
of firearm discharge residue was on it. Her urine indicated she had
taken cannabis some days before, and the anti-psychotic drug Haloperidol.
The rifle—without the silencer or sights attached—was
lying across her chest, pointing up at her neck, with her right hand
resting lightly on it. June's bible lay on the floor beside Sheila,
partly resting on her upper right arm. It was normally kept in a bedside
cupboard. June's fingerprints were on it, as were others that could not
be identified, except for one made by a child.
Journalist David Connett, who attended the trial,
writes that it was by common consent a truly awful investigation. He
asked one Scotland Yard officer who had reviewed it to describe it, and
the response was that he pinched his nose and screwed his face up. The
trial judge, Mr Justice Drake, expressed concern about what he called a
"less than thorough investigation," and in 1989, Home Secretary Douglas
Hurd tightened police procedures to ensure proper management of cases
because of the failings of the Bamber investigation.
Connett writes that the officer in charge, DCI "Taff"
Jones, deputy head of CID, was told it was a "domestic" and went off to
play golf. He became convinced of the murder-suicide theory, to the
point where he ordered Bamber's cousins out of his office when they
asked him to consider whether Bamber had set the whole thing up.
Evidence was not recorded or preserved, and three days after the
killings the police burned bloodstained bedding and a carpet, apparently
to spare Bamber's feelings.
The scenes-of-crime officer did not examine or see
the silencer in the cupboard. It was eventually found by one of Bamber's
cousins, and even then it took the police three days to collect it. The
same officer moved the rifle without wearing gloves, and it was not
examined for fingerprints until weeks later. The bible found with Sheila
was not examined at all. Connett writes that a hacksaw blade that might
have been used to gain entry to the house lay in the garden for months,
and officers did not take contemporaneous notes: those who dealt with
Bamber wrote down their statements weeks later. Bamber's clothes were
not examined until one month later, the bodies were cremated, and all
blood samples were destroyed 10 years later. Unlike DCI Jones, his
junior officers were suspicious of Bamber, and when Jones was removed
from the case, they began to look more closely at Bamber. Jones died
before the case came to court after falling from a ladder in his home.
Bamber's behaviour after the funeral increased
suspicion that he had been involved. The Times reports that,
immediately after the bodies were found, he broke down and was offered
tea and whisky by police, and apparently managed to persuade the police
to burn bedding and carpets inside the house. He wept openly at the
funerals, supported by his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, after which he
flew to Amsterdam, where he apparently tried to buy a consignment of
drugs and offered to sell soft-porn photographs of Sheila to tabloid
newspapers. He also entertained friends to expensive champagne and
lobster dinners. The behaviour served in part to draw police attention
On the day of the murders, the police searched the
gun cupboard in the ground floor office, but did not examine it or
search for the silencer or sights for the rifle. Three days later,
members of the Bambers' extended family visited the farm with Basil Cock,
the estate's executor, and during that visit, one of the cousins, David
Boutflour, found the silencer and the sights in the cupboard. The court
heard that his father, Robert Boutflour; his sister Ann Eaton; the farm
secretary; and Basil Cock witnessed this. The family took the silencer
to Ann Eaton's home to examine it, and later said they found the surface
had been damaged, and there seemed to be red paint and blood on it. They
told the police, who collected the silencer on 12 August, at which point
he noticed an inch-long grey hair attached to it, but this was lost
before the silencer arrived at the Forensic Science Service at
The family returned to the farmhouse to search for
the source of the red paint, and found what they said was recent damage
to the underside of the red-painted mantel above the Aga in the kitchen.
A scenes-of-crime officer, DI Cook, took a paint sample on 14 August,
and it contained the same 15 layers of paint and varnish found in the
plaint flake on the silencer. On 1 October, casts were taken of the
marks on the mantel, and the marks were deemed consistent with having
been caused by the silencer being in contact with the mantel more than
In February 2010 Bamber's legal team submitted
evidence that they say shows the marks were created after the crime-scene
photographs were taken.
A scientist at Huntingdon, a Mr Hayward, found blood
inside and on the outside surface, the latter not enough to permit
analysis. The blood inside was found to be the same blood group as
Sheila's, though possibly 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. Tests at the lab indicated it would have been
physically impossible for Sheila, given her height and reach, to have
reached the trigger to shoot herself while the silencer was attached.
According to Bob Woffinden, a second firearms expert
testified that the .22 Anschütz was unlikely to produce backspatter,
especially when fitted with a silencer, and a third, Major Freddy Mead,
who appeared for the defence, said there was no reason to believe the
silencer had been used. Woffinden writes that it was not clear that the
blood was Sheila's, only that it was the same blood group. It was also
the same blood group as Robert Boutflour's—the father of the cousin who
found the silencer—who was in the house when the discovery was made.
Part of Bamber's defence is that the cousins who
discovered the crucial evidence were the beneficiaries of his estate,
which his defence team say taints any discovery they say they made. Ann
Eaton, who was present on the day the silencer was found, now lives in
White House Farm.
Fingerprints on the 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 breech 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 further prints of insufficient detail to be
It was because of Julie Mugford's statement to police
a month after the case that Bamber was arrested. They had started dating
in 1983 when she was a 19-year-old student at Goldsmith's College in
London; she was still studying there when the killings occurred. She
admitted to a brief background of dishonesty. She was cautioned in 1985
for having used a friend's chequebook, after it had been reported stolen,
to obtain goods worth £700; when they were discovered, she said she and
the friend repaid the money to the bank. She also said that in March or
April 1985 she had helped Bamber steal just under £1,000 from the office
of the Osea Road caravan site his family owned. She said he had stage-managed
the break-in to make it seem as though strangers had done it. The
admission added both to the picture of her own dishonesty and to
Bamber's. After Bamber's trial, Mugford left Britain and later started a
new life in Canada, where she married in 1991, works in education, and
has two children.
She was very supportive of Bamber after the murders;
newspaper photographs of the funeral show him weeping and hanging onto
her arm. On the day after the killings, she told police only that she
had received a telephone call from him at about 3.30 a.m. on 7 August,
during which he sounded worried and said, "There's something wrong at
home." She said she had been tired and had not asked what it was. Her
position toward Bamber changed on 3 September 1985, when an old
girlfriend phoned him and he asked her out in Mugford's presence. They
rowed: she threw something at him, slapped him, and he twisted her arm
up her back. Four days later she went to the police and changed her
In her second statement to police, she said he had
talked disparagingly about his "old" father, his "mad" mother, his
sister who he said had nothing to live for, and the twins who he said
were disturbed. Bamber denied this, saying she was making the
allegations only because he jilted her. Mugford's mother also said
Bamber had told her he "hated" his adoptive mother and described her as
mad. A friend of Mugford's testified that Bamber had said around
February 1985 that his parents kept him short of money, his mother was a
religious freak, and "I fucking hate my parents." A farm worker
testified that he seemed not to get on with Sheila and had once said: "I'm
not going to share my money with my sister".
In discussions Mugford said she had dismissed as
fantasies, he said he wanted to sedate his parents and set fire to the
farmhouse. He reportedly said Sheila would make a good scapegoat.
Mugford alleged he had discussed 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. She said she
spent the weekend before the murders with him in his cottage in
Goldhanger, where he dyed his hair black, and that she saw his mother's
bicycle there. This was significant because the prosecution later
alleged he had used the bicycle to cycle between his cottage and the
farmhouse on the night of the murders. She told police Bamber had
telephoned her on 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, 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 came through closer to 3 am. He
called her later during the morning of 7 August to tell her that Sheila
had gone mad and that a police car was coming to pick her up and bring
her to the farmhouse. When she arrived there, she said he pulled her to
one side and said: "I should have been an actor."
Later that evening she asked 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. He 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. He had told Sheila
to lie down and shoot herself last, Bamber said. He 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.
As a result of Mugford's statement Bamber was
arrested on 8 September, as was the friend Mugford said he had
implicated, though 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 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 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
1985, after which he went on holiday to the south of France. 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 for the trip to France; he did not
borrow keys from the 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 before Mr Justice Drake (Sir Maurice
Drake) and a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court in October 1986 during a
case 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 was motivated by
hatred and greed. They argued he had left the farm around 10 pm on 6
August and later returned by bicycle in the early hours of the morning,
using a route that avoided the main roads. He entered the house through
a downstairs bathroom window, took the rifle with the silencer attached,
and went upstairs. He shot June in her bed, but she managed to get up
and walk a few steps before collapsing and dying. He shot Nevill in the
bedroom too, but he was able to get downstairs where he and Bamber
fought in the kitchen, before he was shot several times in the head.
Sheila was also shot in the main bedroom. The children were shot in
their beds as they slept.
They argued that Bamber then set about arranging the
scene to make it appear that Sheila was the killer. He then discovered
that she could not have reached the trigger with the silencer attached,
so he removed it and placed it in the 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, and banged it from
the outside so that the catch dropped back into position. He then cycled
home. Shortly after 3 am, he telephone Mugford, then called the police
at 3.26 a.m to say he had just received a frantic call from his father.
In order to create a delay before the bodies were discovered, he did not
call 999, drove slowly to the farmhouse, and told police his sister was
familiar with guns, so they would be reluctant to enter.
They argued that Bamber did not receive a 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 dangling; and that Nevill would have called the police
before calling Bamber. It was not known at this point that a police
phone log existed showing that a caller saying he was Nevill did indeed
phone Chemsford police station; the log appears to have been entered as
evidence but was not shown to the jury. The prosecution position was
that, if the call to Bamber really was the last thing the father did
before shots were fired and he dropped the receiver, the line to
Bamber's home would have been left open for one to two minutes, and
Bamber would therefore not have been able to telephone the police
immediately to let them know about his father's call, as he said he did.
That the line would not have cleared in time for him to call the police
is one of several disputed points.
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 was Sheila's, and that it had
come from her head when the silencer was pointed at her. Expert evidence
was submitted that, given her injuries after the first shot, Sheila
could not have shot herself, placed the silencer in the downstairs
cupboard, then run back upstairs to where her body as found. There was
also expert testimony that there were no traces of gun oil on her
nightdress, despite 25 shots having been fired and the gun having been
reloaded at least twice. Prosecutors argued that, had Sheila killed her
family then discovered she could not commit suicide with the silencer
fitted, it would have been found next to her; there was no reason for
her to have returned it to the gun cupboard. The possibility that she
had carried out the killings was further discounted because, it was
argued, she was mentally well at the time; had no interest in or
knowledge of guns; lacked the strength to overcome her father; and there
was no evidence on her clothes or body she had moved around the crime
scene, or been involved in a struggle.
The defence responded that the witnesses who said
Bamber disliked his family were lying or had misinterpreted. Mugford had
further lied about Bamber's confession because he had betrayed her, and
she wanted to stop him from being with anyone else. No one had seen him
cycle to and from the farm. There were no marks on him on the night that
suggested he had been in a fight, and no blood-stained clothing of his
had been recovered. He had not gone to the farm as quickly as he should
have when his father phoned, because he was afraid.
They 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 said she felt she was capable of killing her children, and
the loaded rifle had been left on the kitchen table by Bamber. There had
been a recent family argument about placing the children in foster care.
They also argued that people who have carried out "altruistic" killings
have been known to engage in ritualistic behavior 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 and
The judge said there were three crucial points, in no
particular order. Did the jury believe Mugford? Were they sure that
Sheila was not the killer? 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, and the only reason he would have had to
invent the phone call was that he was responsible for the murders.
The jury found him guilty on 18 October 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.
Bamber in jail
Bamber said in 2001 he had had 17 jail moves and 89
cell moves since he was first arrested. The Times alleges that he
has been treated with a degree of indulgence. At Long Lartin,
Worcestershire, he was reportedly given the key to his cell, studied for
his GCSE in sociology and media studies, had a daily badminton lesson,
and drew pictures of supermodels in art class that he sold through an
outside agent. He has received compensation twice, once after suffering
whiplash injuries when a van moving him between prisons crashed, and
once when a Gameboy was stolen from his cell.
An attractive man who was clearly comfortable with
women, he says he has had three relationships with women inside, one of
them with a trainee policewoman, and that he receives 50 letters a week
from women. He has been involved in some trouble too. He once attacked a
prisoner with a broken bottle, and had to be placed in solitary
confinement when inmates were angered by his stories to journalists
about the comfortable lifestyle he said prisoners have.
In May 2004, he was attacked by another inmate while
making a telephone call from Full Sutton Prison, near York, and was
given 28 stitches for cuts to his neck. As a prisoner alleging a
miscarriage of justice, he is allowed access to the media—thanks in part
to campaigning by journalist Bob Woffinden in another case—and once
called a radio station from Whitemoor jail to protest his innocence.
Leave to appeal refused,1989 and 1994
He first sought leave to appeal in June 1987, arguing
that the judge's summing up had omitted material important to the
defence and that the judge had himself expressed strong views. It was
heard and dismissed by a single judge, and then heard again by a full
court, and leave to appeal was refused on 20 March 1989 by Lord Chief
Justice, Lord Lane.
Because of the criticism of the police investigation
by the trial judge, Essex police held an internal inquiry, conducted by
Detective Chief Superintendent Dickinson. Bamber alleged this report
confirmed that evidence had been suppressed by the police, so he made a
formal complaint, which was investigated in 1991 by the City of London
Police at the request of the Home Office. 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, which was
refused in July 1994. During this process, the Home Office had declined
to give Bamber expert evidence that it had obtained, and so Bamber
applied for judicial review of that decision in November 1994; this
resulted in the Home Office handing over its expert evidence, but at
that point Bamber made no further petition. In February 1996, the Essex
police destroyed many of the original trial exhibits without informing
Bamber or his lawyers. The officer who did it said he had not been aware
that the case was on-going.
Court of Appeal,
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was
established in April 1997 to review allegations of miscarriage of
justice, and Bamber's case was passed to them. They referred it 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 by Lord
Justice Kay, Mr Justice Wright, and Mr Justice Henriques from 17 October
to 1 November 2002, and the decision published on 12 December.
The prosecution was represented by Victor Temple QC
and Bamber by Michael Turner QC. Bamber brought 16 issues to the
attention of the court, 14 of them about failure to disclose evidence or
the fabrication of evidence, and two (grounds 14 and 15) related to the
silencer and DNA testing:
Hand swabs from Sheila
Testing of hand swabs from Sheila
Disturbance of the crime scene
Evidence relating to windows
Timing of phone call to Julie Mugford
Credibility of Julie Mugford
Letter from Colin Caffell
Statement of Colin Caffell
Photograph showing the words "I hate this place"
Proposed purchase by Bamber of a Porsche
Telephone in the kitchen
Scars on Bamber's hands
Blood in the silencer
Although all the issues were reviewed by the court (except
point 11, withdrawn by the defence before adjudication), the reason for
the referral was point 15, the discovery of DNA on the silencer, the
result of a test not available in 1986. The evidence from the original
trial being challenged was from a Mr Hayward, a biologist at the
Forensic Science Laboratory. He had found human blood inside the
silencer, and had asserted that its blood group was consistent with it
coming from Sheila, but not from any of the other victims—though he also
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 for the appeal, argued that Hayward's tests had been inadequate,
and that there was a real possibility, not a remote one, that the blood
came from Nevill and June.
The defence further argued that new tests comparing
DNA discovered in the moderator to a sample from Sheila's biological
mother suggested that the "major component" of the DNA in the silencer
did not come from Sheila, and a DNA sample from June's sister, Pamela
Boutflour, suggested the major component came from her. The court
concluded that June's DNA was in the silencer; 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 meaningless since they did not establish how June's DNA
came to be on the silencer years after the trial, did not establish that
Sheila's was not on it, and did not lead to a conclusion that Bamber's
conviction was unsafe.
In a 522-point judgment dismissing the appeal, the
judges said there was no conduct on the part of the police or
prosecution that would have adversely affected the jury's verdict, and
that the more they examined the details of the case, the more they
thought the jury was right.
Appeals against whole-life tariff, 2008 and 2009
The trial judge recommended a minimum term of 25
years, but on 15 December 1994 Home Secretary Michael Howard decided
Bamber should remain in prison for the rest of his life. In May 2008, he
lost a High Court appeal against the whole-life tariff in front of Mr.
Justice Tugendhat (Sir Michael Tugendhat), and in May 2009 the Appeal
Court upheld Tugendhat's decision. He is one of 38 prisoners in the UK
to have been told they will never be released, a list that includes
Rosemary West, Dennis Nilsen, and Donald Neilson. David James Smith
writes that Bamber is the only one of the 38 known to protest his
Campaign to overturn the conviction
Websites and support
A campaign gathered pace over the years to secure his
release, with several websites set up to examine the case:
jeremybamber.com, which went live on 4 March 2001, jeremy-bamber.co.uk,
jeremybamber.org, jeremybamber.blogspot.com, a "Jeremy Bamber" page on
Facebook with 392 friends, and a "Jeremy Bamber is innocent" page with
697 friends as of August 2010. Nine days after losing his appeal in
December 2002, he used one of the websites to offer a £1m reward to
anyone with new evidence that would overturn his conviction.
His case was taken up by a number of public figures,
including Bob Woffinden, a journalist who specializes in miscarriages of
justice; former Respect MP George Galloway; crime writer Scott Lomax,
author of Jeremy Bamber: Evil, Almost Beyond Belief? (2008); and
Andrew Hunter, former Independent Conservative MP for Basingstoke.
Hunter argued that the case was one of the greatest miscarriages of
justice in the last 20 years, and offered to stand bail for Bamber if
there was an appeal.
Hunter also alleged in the House of Commons in
February 2005 that evidence was still being withheld from the defence.
He said Bamber's lawyers had requested access to the notebooks of
Inspector Taff Jones, the first officer in charge of the investigation
who believed Bamber was innocent, but who died before the case came to
court. They also requested the findings of the coroner who looked into
Inspector Jones's death; the audio recordings of all telephone and radio
messages from White House farm that night; audio recordings describing
the scene of the crime; video recordings of the scene of the crime; and
the original radio and telephone messages log and incident report.
In August 2005, Bamber's lawyers asked the Home
Secretary to pardon him. The letter to the Home Secretary said there
were four million documents in the case, one quarter of which had not
been disclosed to the defence. Thirty-eight boxes of papers were
provided to Bamber's new defence team, including photographs that were
not part of the defence papers during the trial or appeal. The Sunday
Times said in 2010 that Bamber himself kept two floor-to-ceiling
piles of boxes of the papers in his cell.
2004 and 2009 submissions to the CCRC
In 2004 Bamber launched a fresh attempt to obtain
another appeal with a new defence team that included Italian legal
adviser Giovanni di Stefano, and solicitor Barry Woods of Chivers
Solicitors in West Yorkshire. Di Stefano wrote to the Criminal Cases
Review Commission in March 2004 asking them to look at the case again,
based in part on photographs of the crime scene that had been made
available during the trial, but which were not in the bundle of
photographs shown to the jury;
In 2007 his defence team also arranged for Bamber to
undergo a lie detector test, which he passed. The CCRC rejected the 2004
request, but the defence team made a fresh submission in January 2009.
The CCRC announced in February 2011 that it had also provisionally
rejected this submission; it sent Bamber's lawyers an 89-page document
setting out the reasons and invited them to respond within three months,
after which it will reach a final decision.
Sheila: photographic evidence and time of death
Some of the evidence not made available to the
defence before 2005 were photographs of Sheila taken by a police
photographer at around 9 am on 7 August. In a letter to the Home
Secretary in August 2005, Bamber's lawyers said these photographs
had only recently been passed to the defence, and showed that
Sheila's blood was still wet. They argued that, had she been killed
before 3:30 am as the prosecution said, her blood would have
congealed by 9 am. They also cited a statement from one of the first
officers to enter the house at 7:34 am, PC Peter Woodcock, whose
witness statement was first discovered by the defence in a box of
papers in July 2005, though the defence team acknowledged the
statement may have been part of the trial bundle. The statement was
dated 20 September 1985 and said of Sheila: "She had what appeared
to be two bullet holes under her chin and blood leaking from both
sides of her mouth down her cheeks." In 2005, the defence obtained
reports from two medical experts, a Professor Marco Meloni and a
Professor Cavalli, who expressed the view, based on the photographs,
that Sheila had died no more than two hours before the time of the
photographs or PC Woodcock's description of the leaking blood; this
would place her death during the period Bamber was standing outside
the house with the police.
The location of Sheila's body was also disputed. A
police log from the night showed that an officer said two bodies were
seen at 7:37 am "on entry to the premises," one male and one female. The
document said that just before the team entered the house, PC Collins
reported seeing through a window what he thought was the body of a woman
just inside the kitchen door. PC Woodcock then hit the door with a
sledgehammer to force entry. The document also said that at 8:10 a
further three bodies were reported to have been found, leaving it
unclear which body was initially found in which location.
Later police reports said only Nevill had been found
in the kitchen and the other four bodies upstairs. Bamber's defence team
argues that it was Sheila's body that was initially seen in the kitchen
alongside Nevill's; they said she may not have been dead at that point,
and may have moved upstairs where she killed herself.
The only photographs of Sheila seen by the defence
during the trial did not include her feet. Hunter said the new defence
team had found photographs of her body that did include the feet, and
showed she had blood on them. Hunter told MPs this was significant
because, if she had walked through a house where four murders had just
taken place, she would be expected to have blood on her feet, but it was
part of the prosecution's case that her feet were clean. Hunter also
said the photographs showed no rigor mortis and the skin was not
discoloured. The photographs of the other victims did show rigor mortis,
messages and incident report
Another piece of evidence found by Bamber's lawyers
was exhibit 29, a one-page list of radio messages from the scene. The
lawyers asked Essex police whether the list made available to the first
lawyers was the entirety of the exhibit, and went to court in March 2004
to force the police to hand over anything else they still had. It
transpired that exhibit 29 was 24 pages long. MP Andrew Hunter told the
Commons that the first two pages had been written on different paper
from the rest of the list, and had been edited. Comparing the list to
police witness statements suggested that key radio messages from police
had been left out. The lawyers therefore requested the original document
so that it could be sent for analysis. The police refused, according to
Hunter. In addition to providing the 24 pages, he said, the police
inadvertently supplied material that had not been requested: pages from
a telephone log made at the time, and a contemporaneous incident report.
He gave two examples:
At 5: 25 am, the police officers who met Bamber at
White House farm and spent time outside with him—they were in a car
with the call sign Charlie Alpha 7—relayed a message from the tactical
firearms team. The team said they were in conversation with someone
inside the farm house. According to Bamber's website, the log said:
05.25 Firearms team are in conversation with a
person from inside the farm
05.29 From CA7 [Charlie Alpha 7]—Challenge to persons inside house
met with no response
Another piece of evidence consisted of four entries
in the logs and incident report. Hunter told the Commons that it
contradicted the prosecution's account of police finding Nevill's body
downstairs in the kitchen, and the other four bodies upstairs. An
entry in the radio message log said: "0737: one dead male and one dead
female in kitchen." The telephone message log said: "0738: one dead
male and one dead female found on entry." At 7:40 am, the incident log
noted a message from a Detective Inspector IR: "Police entered
premises. One male dead, one female dead." At this point police had
not yet searched upstairs. When they did, they later reported: "House
now thoroughly searched by firearms team. Now confirmed a further 3
bodies found." The chief prosecution lawyer, Anthony Arlidge QC, told
Bamber's lawyers in 2005 that he had not seen any of these logs. A
retired police officer who worked on the case told reporters in 2011
that the police logs were simply mistaken.
New telephone log
In August 2010, the Daily Mirror reported
that the defence team had located a police telephone log that had
been entered as evidence during the trial, but had not been noticed
by Bamber's lawyers, and was not part of the jury bundle. It showed
that someone calling himself Mr Bamber had telephoned police at 3:26
am on the night of the attack to say his daughter had one of his
guns and was going berserk.. If this call was made by Bamber's
father, it might serve to confirm Bamber's version of events. Stan
Jones, a former detective sergeant who worked on the case, said the
log was not new, and that all the paperwork was given at the time to
the defence. He told The Essex Chronicle: "The only person
who telephoned the police was Jeremy Bamber. There is no way his
father phoned. To suggest it is farcical."
The latest piece of evidence submitted to the
CCRC was a report dated 17 January 2010 from Peter Sutherst,
described by newspapers as one of the UK's top photographic experts,
who was asked by the defence team in 2008 to examine negatives of
photographs of the kitchen taken on the day of the murders and later.
In his report, he argued that scratch marks in
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 as the silencer, attached to the rifle, had
scratched against the mantelpiece during the struggle in the kitchen,
and that paint chips identical to that on the mantelpiece were found
on or inside the silencer.
Sutherst said the scratch marks appeared in
photographs taken on 10 September, 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.
He told The Observer in February 2010: "In
this case the scratch marks underneath the mantelshelf turned out to
be the most significant bit of evidence that we came across. ... It
was possible to line up all these pictures in jigsaw fashion to show
that the scratch mark from the underside of the mantelshelf did not
extend into the picture of the mantelshelf taken on the 7th of
August ... So the marks had been put there after the original
Journalist Bob Woffinden has specialized since
the late 1980s in investigating miscarriages of justice. He has
argued, as an alternative scenario, that Sheila killed her family,
but was still alive and watching from an upstairs window as police
gathered outside the house; this, he writes, would explain why
police thought they saw someone inside. At some point she went
downstairs to the kitchen where her father lay dead, and shot
herself once, intending to take her own life. The shot was not
fatal, but she did lose consciousness. The police looked through the
kitchen window and saw two bodies in the kitchen, thinking her dead.
As they broke down the back door, she regained consciousness, and
slipped upstairs using one of the back staircases.
One of the officers said when he entered the
house that he heard a sound upstairs, and shouted to Sheila,
assuming it was her. Woffinden argued that, hearing this, Sheila
went into her mother's bedroom and shot herself a second time, this
time fatally. Because the muzzle was pressed again her skin,
Woffinden wrote that it may have muffled the sound enough to explain
why none of the officers heard the shot.
By Scott Lomax
In October 1986 Jeremy Bamber was convicted by a
majority of ten to two of the murders of five members of his family.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the recommendation that
he should serve a minimum of twenty-five years behind bars. Despite
two failed appeals Jeremy maintains he is innocent and the victim of
a miscarriage of justice.
In the early hours of 7 August 1985 the police
were called to White House Farm in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, having
been told by Jeremy Bamber that his adopted father, Ralph, had
telephoned him to say that Bamber’s sister (a paranoid schizophrenic
named Sheila Caffell) had “gone crazy” and had got a gun. At 07:30,
after having been at the farm for a number of hours, members of the
Tactical Firearms Unit stormed the building and found five dead
bodies. Ralph had been shot eight times and was found in the kitchen.
Sheila Caffell’s twin sons were found in their room with one having
been shot three times in the head and the other five times in the
head. Ralph’s wife, June, was found in the main bedroom where she
had been shot seven times. Beside June’s bed lay Sheila Caffell, who
had been shot twice in the throat and who held an Anschutz rifle in
her hands. It appeared she had committed suicide, with the post
mortem examination showing that she could have survived for a few
minutes after sustaining the first wound but would have died
immediately upon sustaining the second. Sheila was known to have
considered ending her life, expressed an intention to kill her sons
and felt the need to cleanse her mother’s ‘evil’ mind. It was
therefore not surprising that the police believed she killed her
family before ending her own life. However, in September 1985 Jeremy
was arrested twice and charged with five murders.
Sheila could not have committed the murders, the
court heard, because she was inexperienced with guns. What the jury
never heard was that she had gone on shooting holidays with a cousin.
It is true that twenty five or twenty six rounds had been fired and
that all or all but one had hit their target but most shots had been
fired from a few inches away and so, from such a short range, how
could she be expected to miss?
Three days after the shootings one of Jeremy’s
cousins found a sound moderator (silencer) in a downstairs gun
cupboard. Upon close examination later that evening it was noticed
that a small amount of blood was present inside the tube. Tests on
the blood appeared to show that it originated from Sheila Caffell.
It was claimed at trial that there was a “remote possibility”,
however, that the blood could have been a mixture from Ralph and
June Bamber. If the blood was Sheila’s then this meant she could not
have committed suicide, the prosecution argued, because if she did
kill herself how did the sound moderator find its way downstairs?
Recent tests show the blood was not Sheila’s; none of her DNA was
found, yet DNA from June Bamber and a male, possibly Ralph Bamber,
It was alleged Jeremy entered the farmhouse via
the window for the downstairs toilet and that he climbed out of a
window in the kitchen after having killed his family. It was argued
at trial that both of these windows had been found insecure, but
numerous documents unavailable at the trial show that when the
police entered the building all of the windows were closed and
locked. If they were locked, and all of the doors were locked, then
how did Jeremy get into the house to carry out the murders?
The main evidence against Jeremy came from Julie
Mugford who, at the time of the deaths, was his girlfriend. She told
the court that Jeremy had plotted to kill his family for many months
before their deaths. On the eve of the shootings Jeremy told Mugford,
“Tonight’s the night”, the jury were led to believe. He later phoned
to tell her that everything was going well. Jeremy’s defence team
argued Mugford could not be treated with credibility because she
approached the police almost immediately upon being dumped by Jeremy.
It was shown Mugford had become incredibly hurt and upset and at one
point in time she had tried to smother Jeremy with a pillow, by her
own admissions stating “If I can’t have you, nobody can”
If Jeremy was the murderer he must have committed his crimes between
midnight and 03:00 on the morning of 7 August 1985. This is a fact.
From 03:15 onwards Jeremy was speaking to the police on his phone at
his cottage in Goldhanger (three and a half miles from White House
Farm), driving to White House Farm and then he was in the company of
police officers until long after the bodies were discovered. The
many bullets fired at each of his alleged victims would have meant
that they died within moments of being shot. How, therefore, could
the police have seen someone moving within the farmhouse at 03:45
and later, at 05:25, could they have been conversing with someone
inside the building? Whilst he was outside White House Farm with two
police officers a figure was seen moving in the main bedroom. At
trial the figure was dismissed as a shadow or trick of light, but
now documentary evidence shows the officer who made the sighting
recorded seeing ‘an unidentified male.’ A log of radio
communications shows that at 05:25 the tactical firearms officers
were ‘in conversation’ with a person inside White House Farm. How
could this be if everyone inside was dead? It is known, from
studying photographs never shown to the jury, that Sheila Caffell
was still bleeding after 09:00 when photographs of the scene of the
crime were taken. How could this be if she had been shot at least
six hours earlier? People stop bleeding shortly after death. Their
blood would not stay red and running as can clearly be seen in the
previously unseen photographs.
The sighting of what was believed to be a male at
03:45 introduces the possibility that someone other than Sheila or
Jeremy carried out this terrible crime. It was said at trial that
only Jeremy or Sheila could have been responsible and so if it could
be shown Sheila was not a murderer then Jeremy had to be guilty, the
jury were led to believe. Therefore the possibility that some
unknown man along with the radio log evidence and now the
photographic evidence was the killer raises serious questions over
the safety of Jeremy’s conviction.
Whether it was Sheila Caffell or some other
individual who was seen moving within the building, and who later
spoke to the police, remains unknown but what is certain is that
Sheila was alive long after 03:00 and therefore Bamber could not
have been responsible for her death or the deaths of anyone else
inside the building and that is a fact. On the basis of this highly
significant new evidence Jeremy Bamber’s case is being reviewed by
the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who it is hoped will refer it
to the Court of Appeal in the near future.
Is Bambi's killer
19th May 2007
A lie-detector test. A tell-tale trickle of blood. Twenty years
after Jeremy Bamber was jailed for the brutal slaughter of his family,
startling new evidence raises a deeply disturbing question
At about 3.30am on August 7, 1985, Jeremy Bamber called the police.
"My father's just phoned me," he told them.
"He said: 'Please come over. Your sister has gone
crazy and has got a gun'."
That proved to be the start of one of the most
remarkable criminal cases in English history - one that is still
When police broke into the farmhouse owned by
Bamber's parents, they found five people dead from multiple gunshot
According to all the first reports, Bamber's sister,
Sheila - a model with psychiatric problems - had shot her six-year-old
twin sons, her parents and then herself.
The Mail's headline next day was: "Drugs
probe after massacre by mother of twins."
Over the weeks, however, the story
Relatives found a silencer, showing
traces of blood, in the gun cupboard and took it to police.
If it had been used in the shootings, then how could Sheila
have put it back there afterwards? And how could she have
shot herself twice?
Then, a month after the murders, Julie
Mugford, Jeremy Bamber's former girlfriend, went to police
and painted a deeply damaging picture of him, including the
claim that he wanted to get rid of his relatives.
Bamber, who was then 24, was charged with
murdering his family.
In October 1986, he was convicted of all
five killings, becoming one of the most reviled men in
Britain. Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, ruled that he
should never be released.
Bamber, who is now 46, has served more
than 20 years but from the start he has vehemently protested
He claims to be buoyed by what his father
used to say: "Don't worry, Jeremy, the truth always comes
out in the wash."
Last month, in Full Sutton
prison near York, Bamber passed a lie-detector
test. "Did you shoot your family?" he was asked.
"No," he replied.
Lie-detector tests have
always been controversial; but if they are to be
trusted, then Bamber is innocent.
Moreover, the Mail can reveal
new evidence supporting his account. His
solicitor has now asked the Home Office to
release him immediately.
Nevill Bamber was a farmer
and magistrate. He and his wife, June - both 61
when they died - married in 1949 and shortly
afterwards took over White House Farm in the
Essex village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy.
As they could not have
children, they adopted Sheila and Jeremy (who
were unrelated to each other) and privately
After college in Colchester,
Jeremy spent some time in Australia and New
Zealand before returning to work on his father's
farm. He lived in the neighbouring village,
Goldhanger, and in 1983 started a relationship
with Julie Mugford, then a 19-year-old student
at Goldsmith's College in London.
Sheila, who was 28 when she
died, went to secretarial college, before
working in London as a model, where she acquired
the nickname Bambi. She married Colin Caffell in
1977, and their twin sons were born in 1979.
By that time, however,
Shelia's mental health was poor. She and Colin
divorced in 1982, and the following year she was
admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she was
diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.
In March 1985, a few months
before the murders, she was described as "very
disturbed" and "acutely ill" and was re-admitted,
although she was released some weeks later.
Meanwhile, the twins lived
with their father, though Sheila saw them
regularly. On Sunday, August 4, Colin drove
Sheila and the boys to Tolleshunt D'Arcy to
spend a few days at the farm.
On Tuesday, August 6,
according to Jeremy and another relative, Nevill
and June suggested to Sheila that the twins
should be put into foster homes.
When the farm
secretary phoned that evening, she
said Nevill was "very short" and
thought she had interrupted an
It was during
that night, says Jeremy, that his
father made his dramatic call. After
phoning the police, Jeremy called
Julie, before setting off for
Tolleshunt D'Arcy. He arrived, he
says, just two minutes after the
No one was
allowed into the house. Even when
the tactical firearms unit turned up
at 5am, the police still waited
hours after Jeremy's urgent call,
they burst into the house through
the back door at 7.30am. They found
five bodies. There had been 25 shots
with a .22 Anschutz semi-automatic
rifle, mostly at close range.
During the day,
statements were taken from the main
witnesses. Julie Mugford's supported
At the time, the
police were satisfied with the
murder-and-suicide scenario. The
original investigating officer, DCI
'Taff' Jones, has always believed
this - as did the coroner.
killer's identity was not in
question, the house was not treated
properly as a crime-scene; much
forensic evidence was obliterated or
never gathered. Bloodstained bedding
and carpets were destroyed.
On August 10,
relatives - Jeremy Bamber's cousins
Ann Eaton and David Boutflour -
found the silencer in the gun
cupboard with what looked like a
flake of dried blood on it. Though
it was examined by police on August
13, they found nothing.
During the next
month, Jeremy behaved neither
sensitively nor prudently. There was
a huge media presence at the
funerals, where it was suggested
that he was over-theatrical in his
didn't otherwise appear grief-stricken.
He had spent lavishly, flown to
Amsterdam and even tried (
unsuccessfully) to sell soft-porn
pictures of Sheila from her
modelling days round Fleet Street
More than a month
later, the silencer was examined
This time, a
scientist found a speck of blood of
the same type as Sheila's; he
concluded that she must have been
shot while the silencer was fitted
to the rifle.
raising the question of who returned
the silencer back to the cupboard,
this discovery meant that it would
have been impossible for Sheila to
have killed herself because the gun
would have been too long.
DCI Jones was
removed from the case. (He died in a
fall from a ladder at his home
before the case went to trial.)
On September 3,
Julie Mugford found out that Bamber
had asked out another girl.
threw an ornament box across the
room and slapped him. He ended their
Four days later,
she went to the police and told them
a different story.
Bamber, she said,
had shown no remorse; after the
murders, he'd thrown money around
and clearly enjoyed himself.
talked to Julie before the killings
about wanting to get rid of them all,
speculating about the perfect murder.
On the night of
the massacre, she said, Bamber rang
to say: "It's tonight or never."
He added that
he'd hired a hitman, called Matthew
McDonald, for £2,000. She could
prove he was dishonest because
they'd burgled the family-owned
caravan site together five months
At the eventual
murder trial, Julie's evidence was
vital to the prosecution case. The
Crown argued that Bamber detested
his parents for having sent him to
boarding school, and resented
Sheila's success and the allowances
they made for her state of mind.
But his chief
motive, said the prosecutor, was to
inherit about £435,000 and 300 acres
The rest of the
case seemed cut and dried. Sheila
would not have known how to use the
gun, which would have had to be
reloaded at least twice.
would have made the gun too long for
her to point at herself, and she
couldn't have returned it to the
cupboard. There were no bloodstains
on her body or her nightdress and no
traces of firearms residue - except
a bit of lead on her hands.
There was no
documentary evidence - as there
would be today - to back up Bamber's
claims of the phone call he received
from his father.
On October 18,
1986, ten of the 12 jurors returned
a guilty verdict.
Sentencing Bamber to life, Mr
Justice Drake described him as "warped, callous
With hindsight, the case
against Bamber was thin. There was no evidence
that he had travelled from his home to the
farmhouse and back again in the early hours of
Nor was there forensic
evidence linking him to the crimes, other than
one of his fingerprints being on the gun. But he
admitted using it previously to shoot rabbits
and Sheila's fingerprint was also on it; as were
those of the policeman who'd picked up the gun
after the murders.
When the silencer was found,
no one who handled it had worn gloves to try to
retain the evidence.
However, there was a flake of
blood inside, and the forensic expert who
analysed it concluded that it came from Sheila -
backspatter (a spray of blood from the victim)
after she had been shot.
However, another expert, who
also gave evidence for the Crown, said that the
.22 Anschutz was unlikely to produce backspatter
- and even less likely to when fitted with a
Major Freddy Mead, a firearms
expert appearing for the defence, noted that
there were no grounds for believing that the
silencer had been used at all during the
No one could even be sure
that the blood in the silencer was Sheila's. The
blood tests available at that time were basic.
All that could be done was blood grouping.
The prosecution later
conceded that Sheila's blood group matched that
of Robert Boutflour, Jeremy's uncle, who was
present when the silencer was found.
Other scientists said that
the flake could have been a mixture of Nevill's
and June's blood. The jury had asked whether
this was a possibility.
There was also blood on the
barrel of the rifle; again, no one knows whose.
It would be invaluable to
learn more about this evidence, using scientific
techniques available today.
But this is impossible
because Essex police destroyed many of the
original trial exhibits, including all the
blood-based samples, in February 1996.
Those responsible insisted
they had not realised that the exhibits might be
needed - yet ever since the conviction, this
case had been a hot topic.
In February 1996, it was
still under consideration by the Home Office and
was one of the first to be transferred to the
new Criminal Cases Review Commission, which said
the destruction of scientific exhibits was "in
breach of the force's own guidelines".
Bamber's lawyers have always
believed that Nevill and June were shot in their
bedroom. June struggled across it before
collapsing, while Nevill, having been shot
twice, managed to get downstairs to reach the
telephone and call Jeremy.
He then struggled with his
assailant, who beat him with the rifle butt
before shooting him dead. The prosecution
maintained that there were signs of a tussle,
with furniture being overturned, which meant
that Jeremy, not Sheila, must have been the
However, according to a
document later released by City of London Police
(which had been asked in 1991 by the Home Office
to conduct an independent inquiry into Essex
police's handling of the investigation), the
officers knocked over chairs when they burst
into the house.
Further, Sheila could have
subdued Nevill; having been shot twice, he would
have been weak.
Also, it was
possible for Sheila to have shot herself twice.
The first wound, to her throat, was fired from a
distance of three inches but would not have
killed her instantly; the second, fired with the
barrel pressed against the skin, would have
But could Bamber have shot
There was no evidence that
Sheila had resisted and Bamber would have needed
to be underneath her, with her acquiescing, in
order to fire the shots at the angle they
entered the body.
In effect, he was convicted
on the evidence of his own conduct after
the shootings, as well as the word of one
scientist and his former girlfriend.
Yet not only did her account
contradict much of what she had originally
stated; it was not supported in crucial ways.
The alleged hitman, Matthew McDonald, who gave
evidence at the trial, had a strong alibi.
The Criminal Cases Review
Commission referred the case to appeal in March
2001. The appeal began in October the following
By then, as much scientific
testing as possible had been carried out.
The appeal court judges
determined that June Bamber's DNA - but not
necessarily Sheila's - was in the silencer. They
added, however, that they believed there had
been significant contamination of the samples
and the results were meaningless.
Looking at the case as a
whole, they concluded in December 2002 that "the
deeper we have delved into the available
evidence, the more likely it has seemed to us
that the jury were right".
Bamber responded to the
disappointment by changing his legal team.
Bamber's defence depends on
whether Sheila was a viable suspect. Her family
did not think she was capable of serious
"Apart from the odd occasion
when she has struck me in a temper," said her
former husband, Colin Caffell, "she has, to my
knowledge, never struck anyone."
However, Dr Hugh Ferguson,
consultant psychiatrist at St Andrew's hospital
in Northampton where she was treated, reported
that she was "caught up with the idea that the
Devil had taken her over and given her the power
to project evil on to others, including her
When she was discharged from
hospital in September 1983, Ferguson wrote that
she had thoughts that she was "capable of
murdering her own children".
He made a "firm diagnosis" of
schizophrenia, prescribing the antipsychotic
She was re-admitted in March
1985 and received injections of another
anti-psychotic drug, Haloperidol.
The drug was found in her
bloodstream when she died (as was cannabis).
As the appeal court judges
said, "She had a psychotic illness requiring
in-patient treatment. She had severe mood
disturbances (schizophrenia) and she used
cannabis and cocaine."
Learning of the killings, Dr
Ferguson initially said that such violence was
incongruous with his view of Sheila.
Yet, when told that it had
been suggested that her children be taken into
foster care, he said that this could have had "a
He added: "I would not have
expected her to be passive about that."
Dr Ferguson said in his
evidence that it would have transformed her
image of her father from "a support and mentor
into a hostile figure".
Instances of psychiatric
patients murdering others and then themselves
were almost unknown in 1985-6. But they have
occurred with tragic regularity in the years
since, particularly in the United States.
Bamber's current lawyer is
the controversial Giovanni di Stefano. Born in
Italy, di Stefano was raised in Northamptonshire
and has built a practice in Italy and Britain.
His clients have included Saddam Hussein and
Di Stefano has found the
previously lost statement of the first officer
to enter the house, at 7.34am.
The officer stated: "(Sheila
Caffell) had what appeared to be two bullet
holes under her chin and blood leaking from both
sides of her mouth down her cheeks."
This puts the case into a
fresh light. If blood was still leaking from
Sheila's wounds, then she had died relatively
recently, and certainly long after the time that
Bamber called the police.
It also fits with other
evidence. That night, as police waited with
Bamber at a safe distance from White House Farm,
they said they saw someone moving through the
house. That has always been known. Later, it was
assumed they were mistaken. Perhaps they were
right all along.
It could explain too why
Sheila was not bloodied and had only traces of
lead on her hands. She could have washed herself
and changed before killing herself.
Professor Bernard Knight, a
pathologist who gave evidence at the trial, said
that those committing suicide would often engage
beforehand in "ritualistic" cleaning.
One final aspect of the case
that has never been given attention is -
assuming Bamber was guilty - why would he have
invented such a preposterous story about the
phone call from his father?
It would have been simpler
for him to go back to bed, make himself scarce
and let it appear that there had been intruders.
The idea that he could invent
a tale of a killing spree by a mentally
disturbed woman to be lent credibility by
further violent episodes over the following
decade is hard to credit.
Following the lie-detector
test, the case is now set more favourably for
him than it has ever been.
Maybe the truth will still
come out in the wash.