A miscarriage of justice

On 28th October 2011, at Bristol Crown Court, Dr. Vincent Tabak was found guilty of murdering landscape architect Joanna Yeates on 17th December 2010 and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum tariff of 20 years. The evidence proving that he was made the scapegoat in a cruel and deliberate miscarriage of justice to protect the real killer is summarized point-by-point in “Guilty until proven Innocent”. The British and international news media and even the Leveson Inquiry have been muzzled to prevent them from exposing this evil scandal.

The body and the ski sock

Chocolate Labrador

“That was a body back there!”

– Daniel Birch, 25th December 2010

Christmas day 2010 was bright and sunny. Mr Daniel Birch and his wife Rebecca had opened their presents and then set off for to walk their chocolate Labrador dog Roxy shortly before 9.00 a.m. A statement made to journalists at the scene by Chief Superintendant Jon Stratford referred to the Birches’ “dogs”. In a statement read to the court on the fifth day of Vincent Tabak’s trial, Mr. Birch (who did not testify in person nor speak to the press) said they had parked their Mini One car nearby Longwood Lane, Failand, North Somerset. They had walked about 100 metres when he had seen a “lump” in the snow, and had carried on walking, but his “mind was saying ‘that was a body back there’”. He went back and saw the shape of a body in the snow, and saw a jeans pocket and skin, and then phoned the police. Joanna Yeates was lying on her right side, with her knees pointing towards a quarry wall. Her right arm was bent around her head while her left was resting straight across her body.

They had walked about 100 metres
In his statement, Mr. Birch alleged that he remembered the top of her white knickers and part of her bare back being exposed through the snow. Birch’s wife joined him and he called the police. He showed officers where it was. The couple from Long Ashton were said by police to have been very distressed at their find. Their names were not made public until the trial, but unidentified residents of Long Ashton told The Mail (28th December 2010) that the body could not have failed to attract attention if it had been lying beside the road on Christmas Eve. The Birches have never given any interviews nor answered any questions about the exact location of the body, the exact place where they parked their car, whether any traffic passed by while they waited for the police to arrive, whether they have one dog or two, or whether their dog(s) showed any interest in the body.

Darren Bane (right, clutching a dossier),
Deputy Head of Corporate Communications
Avon & Somerset Constabulary
(Source: frame grabbed from BBC video report)
The spot where Joanna’s body allegedly was found is three miles from her flat in Clifton. There is a quarry on the other side of the wall. Longwood Lane is flanked by two golf courses. It is conjectured that the position of the body and the timing of its discovery were fabricated by the police to fit the time when Vincent Tabak was without an alibi. If this is true, then the Birches must be party to the deception, and must have been offered some inducement to compromise themselves, such as immunity from prosecution for some offence previously committed by one of them or by their dog.

The entrance to Durnford Quarry (circled).
The tunnel under Longwood Lane is also visible.
(Source: The Mail, 26th December 2010)
The Mail on Sunday for 26th December 2010 carried an aerial photo with a circle and a caption stating that the body was found on the right-hand corner beside the entrance to Durnford quarry. A different aerial photo pinpointing the same location was reproduced on 3rd January 2011. However, all other reports put the body  further along the lane, above the western portal of the railway tunnel under Longwood Lane linking the two halves of the quarry. Had the body lain in the conspicuous position depicted by The Mail, it would have been spotted by drivers entering and leaving the quarry site. However, the police never appealed publicly to anyone who had walked, jogged or cycled along the narrow and less-frequented part of the lane, with or without a dog, during the week leading up to Christmas, to come forward to state whether or not they believed they would have spotted the body. On the other hand they did appeal for anyone who saw anything suspicious around the entrance to Durnford Quarry between 17th and 19th December 2010 (BBC, 29th December 2010).

The southern end of Longwood Lane
(Photo: The Mail)
Police Constable Martin Faithfull said in his statement that he was shown the body and caught a glimpse of denim. He closed the road.

Avon and Somerset Police forensics co-ordinator Andrew Mott was among the first to be called to the scene on 25th December 2010. He was wearing “protective clothing”. He said the snow was undisturbed around Joanna Yeates’s body, and there was apparent blood staining on a wall. Andrew Mott would assert that the reason for not erecting a tent over the body was the preservation of forensic evidence – the opposite of what commonsense would seem to indicate. He stated that he tried to prevent the body from thawing out.

Forensics co-ordinator Andrew Mott
(frame from BBC “Crimewatch”)
More than one photo of the body covered in snow were shown to the court while he explained that care was taken to minimise any disruption to potential evidence as her body was lifted. Two yellow webbing straps were fed under her calves and lower back – using a broom handle to get them underneath. She was then lifted by one officer, supported by a second behind him, and placed on an open white body bag on top of an orange stretcher by the roadside. From there she was taken the couple of miles to the public mortuary at Flax Bourton, where Dr. Delaney began his initial post-mortem at 6.00 p.m.

Flax Bourton Mortuary
News that a body had been found was released straightaway, and subsequently confirmed by Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford, but its identity was not released until Boxing Day. Unaccountably, the police confirmed that it was Joanna’s body before her parents had visited the mortuary and formally identified her. First reports stated that the body had been found in a frozen ditch, even though there is not room for a ditch between Longwood Lane and the stone walls flanking it. It is very curious that no foxes showed any interest in Joanna’s body for seven days, nor other dogs, their owners, nor for that matter the labrador Roxy himself. It is very doubtful if the snow were deep enough to conceal a body from passers-by, especially as she was lying on her side with one arm over her head.

What were the fire officers doing with their tenders?

A pumping tender in Park Street, Bristol
The assistance of Avon & Somerset Fire Brigade was reported, but never explained. At just after 1.00 p.m. on Christmas day, Bedminster Fire Station received a call for assistance to recover a body from “Roadside Vegetation” (Incident Number: 019064-25122010, Recovery of body). The Station sent a Water Tender (Pumping) with a crew of 5, a Water Tender (Pumping) with a Ladder and a crew of 5, and a Safety Boat with a crew of 2. At the same time Temple Fire Station sent a similar Tender at Bedminster’s request, as well as a Rescue Tender with a crew of 2. Avonmouth Fire Station sent at Bedminster’s request a Water Tender (Pumping) with a crew of 2, which returned to the scene again just after 9.15 p.m. the same day, and again on 27th, 28th and 29th, having presumably been stabled at Bedminster overnight.  (Source: FoI application)

A pumping tender from Bristol turns into Longwood Lane
from Clevedon Rd (Source: frame captured from ITN video)
Among the Brigade’s vehicles seen in press pictures at the crime scene were a large Renault Midliner rescue tender (N603 MHY) with a Hiab Jib crane, a large MAN fire tender (WU04 HYN), and a Land Rover Defender (WX03 ZBW) normally used for driver training. This Land Rover was later seen in Longwood Lane towing a diesel fuel bowser. According to The Mail (26th December 2010): “Fire brigade surround the area where Joanna was discovered close to a quarry. They used a crane to shift the body from the scene.” The journalists showed astonishingly little curiosity about why a crane capable of lifting 1.47 tonnes with a reach of 5 metres should be needed for this task.

Renault Midliner rescue tender (N603 MHY)
with a Hiab Jib crane in Longwood Lane
(Source: frame captured from ITN video)
Why was the jury told the colours of the body bag and the stretcher, but not the use to which all the fire-fighting equipment was put? The most probable explanation is that the true location of the body was much less accessible than the verge of Longwood Lane, and that its recovery entailed draining a pond that was subsequently refilled. If this had been done merely as part of the search for the pizza and other clues, why should details of such a very large operation, carried out in haste, be withheld from the public and the jury?
Satellite view of Longwood Lane and Durnford Quarry in 2009, showing
the large pond to the west of  the spot where police alleged Joanna’s body
had been dumped. (Source: Flash Earth/Microsoft Corporation)
Satellite view of Longwood Lane and Durnford Quarry in 2015
(Source: Google/Bluesky, Infoterra Ltd)
The subterfuge about the position where the body lay undermines the legitimacy of Vincent Tabak’s conviction in its own right. The most probable explanation for this subterfuge is that the police had received a tip-off about the body from the killer himself, several days before it was actually recovered. Did he leave a “calling card” in the flat that led them to Longwood Lane? The finding of the body had to be timed to coincide with the melting of the snow. The police must have held an off-the-record briefing to prevent the journalists from publishing awkward speculation.

The grass verge on the west side of Longwood Lane
at the spot where Joanna’s body was alleged to
have been found. Behind it is the wall on which smears
of her blood were alleged to have been found.
It was not until 14th October 2011 at the trial that it was implied that Joanna’s body was frozen to the ground at the hips and calf.

A statement from forensic archaeologist Dr. Karl Harrison, now Lecturer in Forensic Archaeology at Cranfield University, and formerly Lead Scientist within the Ecology Team of LGC Forensics, described how Joanna Yeates was found, especially regarding leaves and snow around and on her body.

Forensic archaeologist
Dr. Karl Harrison
According to Dr. Harrison, “After her death, she was placed on a verge, lying on a layer of leaf matter. Following her deposition, leaves were placed around her and tucked in around her sides, compressed against her body. A layer of snow fell, sealing the leaf litter. A little time was taken to place the body of Joanna Yeates before she was left at the scene.” There was no cross-examination of Dr. Harrison, who never ventured any estimate of how long the body had lain there. No evidence has been made public that indicates he attended the crime scene before the body was recovered.

According to The Mirror newspaper, 28th December 2010, “A source said: ‘There were no obvious injuries when officers found her body, no stab wounds or big marks. I would not be surprised if the cause of death turns out to be hypothermia.’”

The pathologist’s investigation

Dr. Russell Delaney (Photo: Press Association)
Home Office pathologist Dr. Russell Delaney was on duty on 25th December 2010 when he was called out to Longwood Lane, where a woman’s body had been found. He did not arrive until after mid-day, and he did not examine the body closely until 6.00 p.m., nine hours after it had been found. Among the excuses given for the delay in carrying out a full post-mortem were that the body was frozen, and that Joanna’s parents should be allowed to see her first. Was this because the police already knew so much about Joanna’s death that the pathologist’s contribution was a formality?

Who was this mystery woman seen leaving Longwood Lane?
Was she Rebecca Birch, whose dog found the body?
Dr. Delaney stated that she was lying on the ground in a “foetal” position. At first sight, he could glimpse what appeared to be blood on her blonde hair, which was matted with snow and leaves. Joanna Yeates’s nose was bloodstained and a red-tinged icicle hung from it. Her eyes were puffy and red and there was bruising on her forehead, behind her ear and under her eyelids. Her cheeks and neck were also bruised. She had an abrasion on her lip and red bruises on her chin. Her blond hair was stained with what appeared to be blood.

Dr. Delaney never said anything about why he allowed nine hours to elapse before he examined the body. He was not able to make any estimate of the time of death. The pathologist never said anything about the contents of the pockets of Joanna’s jeans. He never said anything about evidence of recent sexual activity. He never said whether she were pregnant or not. He never said whether he had found evidence of any sexually transmitted infections. He stated that Joanna’s fingernails were short, but never said whether he looked beneath them for traces of material that could have been linked to her killer.

Joanna Yeates
By the time the body had been confirmed on Boxing Day as that of Joanna Yeates, the entire nation was clamouring for the unspeakable perpetrator of this dreadful crime to be found.

Dr. Delaney conducted a second post-mortem on Boxing Day afternoon after Joanna’s body had been thawed overnight in a fridge. After examining the body twice, he was satisfied that Joanna Yeates had not been sexually assaulted. There was no evidence of “direct sexual violence”. However, this was not made public until 3rd January 2011, when Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, from Avon and Somerset police, said: “At this stage there is no evidence to suggest that Joanna was sexually assaulted. However, I have not ruled out that there might have been a sexual motive.”

The absence of sexual assault rules out the likelihood that her death was the result of a sexual attack by a stranger, and increases the great likelihood that her killer was someone she knew very well, and with whom she may already have had a sexual relationship. Jealousy on her part or on the part of her killer most probably led to her death.

Asked about Joanna’s injuries at his first press conference on 28th December 2010, DCI Phil Jones stated that her body showed no signs of other significant injuries. Yet according to Dr. Delaney she sustained 43 injuries, most of them minor, including a small fracture to the base of her nose. The extent of her injuries was not disclosed to the public, nor even to her parents, until the second day of the trial, 11th October 2011. This shows that the police already had plans to convict a scapegoat by tricking him into standing trial on a plea of manslaughter and then revealing Joannas scratches and bruises as evidence of anger and a struggle.

She was wearing neither a coat nor boots, and one sock, her right, was missing (but these details were not disclosed to the public until 5th January 2011 by a reluctant DCI Phil Jones, after The Sun had learnt about them somehow, and told the police it had decided to publish the story as a ‘scoop’). Her T-shirt had been pulled up above her grey bra and her right bra-cup had been pulled up, exposing her right breast.

Channel 4 had its own idea of where the body was found
She had injuries “consistent with force being applied”. The injuries to her neck were also consistent with force being applied. Joanna’s injuries showed that the skin had come into contact with a roughened surface or object. Marks on her arms were consistent with “grip marks from finger tip pressure”. There was deep bruising to her neck muscles.

Joanna had cuts and bruises to her head, nose, neck, abdomen, both arms and legs, including a scratch on her breast and bruising to her neck muscles and wrists, where she had been gripped. She suffered injuries to the head and neck, a slight fracture on her nose, three abrasions to the trunk, 11 to the right arm, 10 to the left, one to the right leg and three to the left leg. The need for powerful pumps and a crane to recover her body proves that many of her injuries were more likely to be attributable to this operation than to any violence by her killer, but neither the pathologist, nor anyone else who knew the truth about where the body had really lain, would be allowed to reveal this. 

She had been wearing a chunky white watch and a silver necklace with a pendant. Dr. Delaney found blood on her distinctive watch strap, and there was blood coming from her right nostril, trailing down the side of her face into her hair.

Dr. Delaney concluded that she died of compression to the neck, which caused an increase in pressure in the veins above the pressure point. “The injuries show a pattern of compression of the neck and shows she was still alive when the compression took place. Death was not instantaneous. It took sufficient force to kill her.” Not until 28th December 2010 was the public told that the cause of Joanna’s death had been strangulation. “There was no sign of the use of a ligature. The fracture of the nose and bruising to the head was likely to have occurred during the period of neck compression. It could have been as a result of a forcible contact with the floor or another object.” Dr. Delaney believed Joanna’s killer had probably used both hands to strangle her, but this was not disclosed until the trial.

Dr. Delaney never explained why he himself did not examine the contents of her stomach and intestines in the course of the second post-mortem. He made a further examination of the body on 31st December 2010, and observed a subsequent examination by a Dr. White on 17th January 2011 (according to Julia Reidsky, Sky News tweet, 14th October 2011). This may refer to Dr. Hugh White, a forensic pathologist. His role may have been to remove the contents of the stomach and intestines to send to Glasgow for analysis by Northlight Heritage, to prevent the pathologist hired by the Defence lawyers from analysing them.

The blood on her body

Lindsay Lennen
Forensic scientist Lindsay Lennen, a body fluids and DNA specialist on the staff of LGC Forensics, and case leader for homicides, identified blood on the T-shirt, bra and the sole of the toe of the left sock as Joanna’s. In a press release issued two weeks after the trial, LGC Forensics claimed credit for fibre analysis carried out in connection with the murder of Joanna Yeates. According to Sky News on Twitter (18th October 2011), Counsel for the Defence did not challenge the admissions that eleven wool fibres found on Joanna’s body matched the black coat worn by Vincent Tabak, and a number of fibres found on her clothes and body matched the lining of the boot of the car he was driving. Without any expert statistical evidence from a witness under oath to demonstrate that these fibres were especially uncommon, however, the fibres proved nothing except the curious attitude of the defence QC.

Cheesy chips and Cola

Dr. Jennifer Miller.
Source: Northlight Heritage
Dr. Jennifer Miller (director at Northlight Heritage, Glasgow) examined a sample taken from the stomach of Joanna Yeates. In her statement, Dr Miller said she was trying to identify when Joanna experienced trauma, or died, which would have stopped her digestive system working. Her statement made mention of the Cola and the portion of cheesy chips that Joanna Yeates had allegedly shared with her boyfriend in their lunch break on Friday 17th December 2010. Dr. Miller told the court that it was very likely that death or severe trauma occurred within 8 to 10 hours of Joanna’s last meal. So whether it was cheesy chips and Cola that Joanna had for lunch that day, or something quite different, virtually no traces of that meal would be left in her stomach by the time she bought the pizza in Tesco at 8.39 p.m. On the other hand, Dr. Miller did not make any mention at all in her statement of pizza, mozzarella, tomato or basil pesto. She did not actually deny having found traces of the pizza in Joanna’s stomach. She did not tell the court what she actually had found there, and neither Counsel cross-examined her to find out. How much confidence can we have in the conclusions drawn by Dr. Miller? Most other authorities indicate that a full meal takes 2 to 5 hours to digest, and a snack takes 3 hours.

Why send the contents of Joanna’s stomach all the way to Glasgow for analysis by an expert who does not contribute anything, unless it was to mislead the jury? The most probable explanation is that the police knew that Joanna had in fact eaten the pizza (as indeed seems most probable, since it was never found), so they had the analysis performed in a different jurisdiction, so as to protect the Home Office pathologist from compromising himself, as he would have done if he had done the work himself. The police waited until 18th January 2011 before alleging publicly that Joanna had not eaten the missing pizza. They maintained throughout that she had died on the evening when she bought the pizza. The police’s statement to the press about the pizza was unattributed, so its source was presumably Amanda Hirst.

Nigel Lickley QC
During the second day of his opening speech for the Prosecution, 11th October 2011Nigel Lickley QC stated that tests had shown that Joanna had 67 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood – below the legal drink-drive limit of 80 mg, but consistent with her having being killed shortly after her evening at the Bristol Ram. This figure was not taken from Dr. Delaney’s testimony nor any other testimony given under oath, so death probably occurred at a time when the victim was under the influence of significantly less or significantly more alcohol than Counsel told the jury. Did Joanna die later than we have been led to believe?

Describing the state of her body, Dr. Delaney said that her jeans were fully fastened, her knickers had not been disturbed and the rear bra clasp was in place. He did not state, however, that she was wearing any knickers.

Detective Superintendent Mike Rourke was overseeing the crime scene at Longwood Lane when the family came to visit it and lay flowers on 27th December 2010. Greg Reardon was wearing a woolly hat. It was his first appearance in public since the first press conference after Joanna was reported missing. Everyone else was bare-headed. The air temperature must have been above freezing, because there was no vsible condensation from their breath. As the place where Joanna’s body was allegedly dumped was still a crime scene, the flowers were laid beside a wire fence 200 yards away along the lane, and on the opposite side of the lane.

Flax Bourton
The news that she had been strangled – and that it was now a murder investigation – was released at a press conference on 28th December 2010. Avon & Somerset Constabulary instigated a murder inquiry styled “Operation Braid” by more than 80 officers led by DCI Phil Jones.

An inquest into Joanna Yeates’s death was initially opened on 29th December 2010 at Avon  Coroner’s Court, Flax Bourton, and adjourned the same day. The reason for the adjournment was probably that the Coroner could determine neither the date nor the place of death. The adjournment ensured that neither the public nor her parents learnt of the extent of her injuries. Neither the inquest nor its adjournment was reported by any of the news media. The information about the inquest was obtained from a private Freedom of Information application.

The independent pathologist’s investigation

Nathaniel Cary
Vincent Tabak’s defence got the eminent forensic pathologist Dr. Nathaniel Cary to carry out an independent examination of Joanna Yeates’s body on 26th January 2011, immediately after he had been charged with her murder. By associating his client with the victim in this way, the solicitor revealed that he expected his client to be convicted. Asking that Vincent Tabak have his own pathologist examine the body was also incriminating and his lawyer should have absolutely resisted it and said he was innocent and had no interest in the dead body of the victim. It was guilt by association again - as was the funeral on the day of the first prison visit from family and the girlfriend. As soon as this examination was complete his solicitor gave the police permission to release the body to her family for burial. The CPS probably retaliated to this independent post-mortem by instructing the Home Office to deny Vincent Tabak any visitors in prison until the day of Joanna’s funeral, in breach of the rules for remand prisoners.

The pathologist Nathaniel Cary, who had examined the body on behalf of the defence, said it was “misleading” to say that Miss Yeates suffered 43 injuries, because some of these could be caused by one action. In his initial report, he thought that Joanna might have had her nose damaged by being “forced into a soft furnishing” like a sofa. The pathologist, who had earlier told jurors that he had been involved in several high-profile murder cases, said he believed many of her injuries could have been caused after death. The defence’s pathologist disputed the prosecution’s claim about the ferocious level of violence of the victim’s death. He also underlined that her intact bra strap and jeans fastening meant that it was not a sex attack.

What the jury was never told about Joanna’s body

None of those who testified about the body reported on bladder contents nor possible urine in her briefs or jeans. Had Joanna arrived home, the first thing she would have done after a 50 minute walk from the pub in freezing weather was to go to the toilet. Had she not arrived home, there would have been urine in her bladder or in her briefs or jeans. When cross-questioning the two pathologists, Vincent Tabak’s defence counsel failed to ask either of them about her urine. As both the defence and the prosecution wished the jury to believe that she had arrived home, nothing was said in court about urine, so urine probably was found in her bladder or her briefs and jeans. The fact that a broom handle had to be used together with webbing to retrieve the body suggests that the lower part of her back and her calves were frozen to the ground – or that Andrew Mott wished to convey that impression. This suggests that urine wetting her jeans had frozen to the earth.

None of those who testified described the state of the snow or ice underneath Joanna’s body. Had she been deposited shortly after death, the heat of the body would have melted the snow or ice temporarily. This could also explain why force had to be used to raise her body. On the other hand, if she had been kept for several days in a cold place and then deposited in Longwood Lane, the snow would have been compressed but not melted.

None of those who testified told the court anything about Joanna’s menstrual calendar. Counsel for the Defence failed to cross-examine any of the witnesses about this, nor whether her absence from work on the day before her death was connected with her period. PMT could have influenced both her relationship to her boyfriend and her behaviour towards the neighbour whom she allegedly invited in to her flat and was perceived by him as flirty.

None of those who testified in court was asked whether Joanna were pregnant or not. In any murder case where the victim is of child-bearing age, this would have been an obvious question, since there are so many situations where it could have provided a strong motive for murder, and the prosecution at the trial did not suggest any motive at all. Is this one of the reasons why the inquest was hushed up?

None of those who testified in court was asked whether Joanna had been infected with any sexually transmitted disease, which could have accounted for her headaches, and for the motive of her killer.

None of those who testified in court was asked whether there were any evidence of consensual sex by Joanna prior to her death. Nor was the defendant asked if he had had sex with her. This suggests that both the Defence and the Prosecution knew what the answers would be, but did not want the jury to know.

Did the injury to her nose occurr when her killer head-butted her to stop her screaming while holding her neck? Why didn’t Vincent Tabak’s defence counsel cross-examine Joanna’s boyfriend to find out whether he could account for any of the 43 injuries? Could they have been a result of a fight that had occurred 48 hours before her death? Was this the explanation why she took sick-leave from work on the day before her death?

Were they just poking about for the photographer?
Are those broom handles they are using?
There was no expert witness testimony to the results of the forensic examination of Joanna’s flat, Vincent Tabak’s glasses, his black coat nor his other clothes, nor the interior of Tanja Morson’s Renault Megane. There was a smear of Joanna Yeatess blood on a stone wall near where her body was found, where an attempt had been made to heave her body over the wall. This proves that at least one wound on Joanna Yeates’s body was still capable of leaking liquid blood quite a long time after she was dead. It is more likely that this came from the fatal wound in her throat than the minor one in her nose. This would have been the final leak. Her body must have leaked greater quantities of blood each time it was moved in the course of the journey. There was also blood in her hair. Had she been killed in the flat, she must have leaked blood on to her killer, her own clothes and the surroundings. If it were Vincent Tabak who dumped Joanna’s body, why was none of her DNA transferred to the clothes he was wearing and thence to the interior of the car he was using after he had struggled to lift her bloodied body over the stone wall? Why did neither her boyfriend nor her parents notice any signs of blood in the flat? None of them had any motive to clean blood up without saying so. If Vincent Tabak really killed her in the flat, he would have had no reason to clean the blood up in the flat. He would have had to try to clean his clothes, and it is difficult to believe that his girlfriend would not have suspected something in that case. Joanna Yeates’s boyfriend, on the other hand, would have had ample opportunity to deal with blood on his clothes - and in his car. It is doubtful if the forensics analysts ever examined the inside of the boyfriend’s car, as they were determined to show that she had been killed in the flat by someone else.

The blood on the wall

A person believed to be Tania
Nickson outside Bristol Crown
Court on 18th October 2011
(frame grabbed from
Sky News video)
The blood on the wall was examined and would be described to the court on 18th October 2011 by forensic scientist Tania Nickson  (School of Defence & Security, Cranfield University, Shrivenham), who told the jury that they indicated “smearing” rather than “spattering”. “This suggests that it was not here that the victim had been assaulted”, she added, “but that an attempt had been made to deposit the body over the top of the wall.” She said “blood from Joanna’s right nostril was visible. There was a clot of blood and some drips of blood on the wall next to where the body was found. Further blood smears were found higher up the wall. The blood clot most probably came from Joanna’s nose during the attempt to put her body over the wall.”

A photo of Joanna’s body, lying fully clothed in the foetal position, with her pink top pushed up, was shown to the jury while forensic scientist Tania Nickson testified about the bloodstain on the wall, conveying the impression that the witness had seen the body in situ.

View through the trees of the top of the western portal
of the quarry tunnel under Longwood Lane, taken
over the top of the stone wall at the spot alleged
to be smeared with Joanna’s blood
Although she did not make this clear to the jury, it was evidently not until 26th December 2011 (according to journalist Tina Orr Munro writing in Police magazine, February 2012) that Tania Nickson went to Longwood Lane to examine and take samples from the blood on the wall. The “police requested a scene-going scientist, Tania Nickson, from a forensic company to attend the place where Jo’s body had been dumped.” By that time, Joanna’s body had been taken to the Mortuary at Flax Bourton. In an article in The Guardian, 17th February 2012, journalist Jon Henley reported that a “colleague of Ms Lennen’s went down to Bristol to supervise the removal of Jo’s clothing and preserve any body fluids”. This colleague was evidently Tania Nickson.

The DNA on the body

Christopher Jefferies.
His DNA was not found on
Joanna’s body, but he
was arrested anyway
Partial DNA. Samples of fluid containing DNA that, on analysis, gave a partial match to Vincent Tabak’s DNA were stated to have been detected by LGC Forensics in microscopic traces of material found on Joanna Yeatess chest and behind the knees of her jeans. The samples were so small that special Enhancement techniques had to be used to amplify and analyze them. Some scientists, such as Prof. Dan Krane, refer to amplified DNA as “low copy number DNA”. The samples are usually destroyed in the process of analyzing them, so the defence would not be able to subject them to independent verification. The arrest of the landlord Christopher Jefferies, five days after the body had been found, proves that the alleged presence of her killer’s partial DNA on Joanna’s breast was fake, because if it really matched Vincent Tabak’s DNA, then it couldn’t have matched the landlord’s DNA.

On 3rd January 2011, The Daily Mail carried the following unattributed report: “A sample of DNA found on Joanna Yeates’s body could be a crucial discovery in the huint for her killer. It is understood that police forensic specialists are working around the clock to find out to whom it belongs. The sample was taken from Miss Yeates’s body soon after it was found dumped at the side of a road on Christmas morning. Although the freezing temperatures meant post-mortem examination results were severely delayed, crime experts say the cold weather provided ‘excellent conditions’ for preserving the DNA evidence. The sample is being tested for a match against DNA information previously stored by police, as well as against samples that have been taken during the investigation. It is understood several potential DNA matches were tested within hours of the find. The revelation about the potentially vital evidence came the day after the only man arrested over the killing so far was released. Chris Jefferies, 65, spent three days in police custody before being freed...”

After Vincent Tabak had been arrested, the second prepared statement he gave to the police said that he had no knowledge of how his DNA allegedly came to be found on Joanna Yeates’s body and clothing, and disputed that it was his DNA. In his statement, he then claimed evidence may have been leaked to the press from the laboratory for financial gain.

DCI Phil Jones said: “A forensic examination of DNA found on Miss Yeates’s body revealed a link to the sample Tabak had given in the Netherlands on New Year’s Eve – but further painstaking work was required.” ... It was early in January before police could begin putting together a picture of what DNA had been found on Miss Yeates’s body. It was then that they established components of Tabak’s DNA, as well as an unidentified profile... Mr Jones said DNA retrieval in the case was a meticulous process which took time. “I didn't want to arrest Tabak until I was confident of the case we were building against him.” (Bristol Evening Post, 31st October 2011) This completely contradicts the speed with which Lindsey Lennen was to claim LGC Forensics collected samples from the body.

The “missing” ski sock

DCI Phil Jones with
a pair of grey ski socks
size 5 (photo: The Sun) 
Was not the mundane reason why one sock was “missing” that Joanna been unable to finish dressing after being caught in flagrente delicto? Or had it remained inside her boot when this was removed by her killer after she was dead, to make her body easier to move (and plant the boots in the flat)? If this happened outside the flat; it would show that it was not she who took her own boots off. A jury credulous enough to believe Vincent Tabak’s astonishing testimony that he went back to her flat to collect the pizza and the sock (as a trophy!) would believe anything. If the police had found a sock matching the one on Joanna’s body when they ransacked his flat, then the jury at his trial would certainly have been told.

Not until 11 days after Joanna’s body was found did DCI Phil Jones publicly reveal that her right foot had been bare, nor that she had had only a thick ski sock on her left foot. He stated that the size of the sock corresponded to that of Joanna’s shoes, size 5. According to Amanda Hirst in her testimony to the Leveson Inquiry, this revelation had been forced upon him by The Sun. It can be inferred that Avon & Somerset Constabulary by this time had decided that Vincent Tabak was their undeclared principal suspect.

The court would be told, probably by the forensic scientist Lindsay Lennen in her testimony, however, that the sock found on the body belonged to Joanna’s boyfriend (This is Bristol, 19th October 2011). It would be very surprising if Greg Reardon had feet that were really as petite as Joanna’s, and the forensic scientist probably found herself confronted with a sock that was signficantly larger than DCI Phil Jones had told the public. Smartly-dressed Joanna would hardly have gone drinking with colleagues wearing her boyfriend’s oversize socks, so the sock found on her body was most probably one that she had grabbed in great haste before fleeing in the snow. The sock may even have belonged, not to Greg Reardon himself, but to an unknown man with whom she may have been caught in bed.

Two days after Vincent Tabak was arrested, The Daily Mail (22nd January 2011) carried the following unattributed report: “It is understood police are investigating whether Miss Yeates’s body was taken from her home in a large bag or suitcase. The line of inquiry arose because there were no drag marks on Miss Yeates’s body or clothing.”

Vincent Tabak was not allowed any visitors until his lawyers had given permission for Joanna’s body to be released for burial, the police mole from the Salvation Army had had three conversations with Vincent Tabak, and Patrick Cullinane had lobbied the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in London. Did this instruction prohibiting visitors originate with the CPS SouthWest, and go via the CPS and the Home Office to Long Lartin Prison? It can be no coincidence that the Vincent Tabak’s first visitors (reported only by The Sun, who had briefed a “prison insider” to tip them off) were allowed into the prison on the same day as the funeral (reported by all the media). Was the malicious CPS punishing Vincent Tabak for ordering an independent post-mortem?

The inquest was held on 28th March 2011, four days before the deadline for the Crown to present the case papers. According to the death certificate, the inquest adjourned by Maria E. Voisin found that the date of Joanna’s death was 25th December 2010, and the place of her death was Longwood Lane, Failand. Registrar S. L. Thomas registered her death on 30th March 2011. There was no informant, nor any signatures on the certificate. The inquest went completely unreported by the news media. If Joanna’s parents received a copy of the results of the inquest, it must have been a censored version, since they apparently knew nothing about the extent of her injuries until the trial started.

The trial of Vincent Tabak

Monday 10 October 2011. The Prosecution led by Nigel Lickley QC opened their case against Vincent Tabak at Bristol Crown Court. The Court was told on the second day of the trial (11th October 2011) that Joanna Yeates had died painfully by strangulation and had put up a vigorous struggle in the course of which she sustained no fewer than 43 injuries, most of them of a minor nature. They included a fractured nose, which bled. The extent of these injuries had been kept a closely guarded secret, even from the defendant, who now heard about them for the first time.

Contrary to the finding of the inquest, Bristol Crown Court was told that Joanna had died at 44 Canynge Road, Clifton, on 17th December 2010.

A much better hiding place – beside Longwood Lane
The pathologist Dr. Russell Delaney was very confident that the petite Miss Yeates had not been sexually assaulted, and believed that the disarray of her bra had most probably been caused by a failed attempt to heave her body over a stone wall. Why should a cold, calculating killer, as Vincent Tabak was depicted to be by the prosecution, with several hours on his hands, be unable to find a much better hiding place for the body than the verge of a country lane? The jury was not told about the 4 fire engines nor about 21 of the 23 firemen who were required to recover Joanna's body.

Did he really dump the body?

Vincent Tabak captured on CCTV in Asda.
The time display should have been visible
at the lower left-hand corner.
The court was shown a video clip from CCTV cameras in the Asda supermarket in Bedminster, showing Vincent Tabak entering and leaving twice and walking along an aisle. The date shown on the clip is 17 December 2010 but the timestamp had been removed, rendering it invalid as evidence. Did A & S Constabulary remove the timestamp because they discovered that it gave Vincent Tabak an alibi? Bedminster is on the opposite side of the River Avon to 44 Canynge Road, but on the same side of the river as Longwood Lane. Counsel for the Prosecution suggested that “It may well be that the body of Joanna Yeates was in the boot of the car at Asda”. At 9.25 p.m., in a message to his girlfriend, who was attending her office Christmas party, Vincent Tabak had sent a text that read: “Missing you loads, it is boring here without you Vxx.” The court was told that Vincent Tabak purchased beer, crisps and rock salt in Asda, which he could easily have obtained from a supermarket closer to Clifton. He sent a text message to his girlfriend at 10.30 p.m. “How are you. I am at Asda buying crisis (sic). I am bored cannot wait to pick you up.”

View southwards from the side of Longwood Lane
opposite to the spot where Vincent Tabak
allegedly dumped Joanna’s body
Surely if he really had been engaged in dumping a body, he would have avoided CCTV cameras linking him to the neighbourhood of Longwood Lane and would have avoided sending such an incriminating text message? Surely if he wanted to create a deliberate alibi, as the prosecution suggested, he would have gone to a nearby supermarket such as Tesco Express in Clifton Village, in the direction opposite to Failand? Surely a cold, calculating person would have driven to Failand and dumped the body straightaway, to minimize the risk of being stopped unexpectedly, e.g. as a result of a police check or a minor collision, instead of making a non-essential detour to Asda?

If Vincent Tabak really had committed the crime, the police would have shown a clear track record of his times. They would have present the cctv of him in his car with the number plate and time stamp clearly visible travelling through Bristol, and show the street and direction he was going in. They do it all the time for speeding fines. Then they would have the ASDA cctv footage with undoctored time stamps, and the time would be following on from his time offline from his computer. One would expect about a ten or fifteen minute drive to ASDA in Bedminster. They would have several more cctv videos of him travelling across the Avon Gorge and coming back, and all the times would be synchronised, and in a sequence that corresponds to his alleged movements.

The uses of a broom handle

William Clegg QC
14th October 2011: Cross-examining the Police’s forensics co-ordinator at Vincent Tabak’s trial, William Clegg QC asked why photographs were not taken of the broom being used to arrange straps underneath the body so Joanna’s body could be taken away. “I can't comment on why that was the case,” Andrew Mott answered. “The straps that we used are hooked around the broom so it would have to be the straps that come into contact with the body.” The purpose of this question is difficult to understand, unless it was intended to expose a ruse on the part of Andrew Mott as to where the body was really found. The broom handle may have been introduced for no other purpose than to ensure that the court firmly believed that the body had lain where it was discovered for many days. Had it been a proper trial, the judge Mr. Justice Field would either have directed the witness to answer the question, or asked Counsel for the Defence where he was leading.

Cross-examination of the Home Office pathologist

A fire & rescue officer wearing a climbing harness
in Longwood Lane on 28th December 2010,
three days after Joanna’s body had been recovered.
(Source: partial screenshot, gettyimages)
Cross-examining the Home Office pathologist on 14th October 2011, Counsel for the Defence William Clegg QC asked: “Would you agree with me that death may have been caused in a matter of seconds rather than minutes?”

Dr. Russell Delaney: “I can't tell how long it took. The death occurred after a period of time sufficient to leave the signs of neck compression. It may be a number of seconds but I wouldn't quantify it any further than that.”

Mr Clegg asked the pathologist whether “no more than moderate force” had been used to kill Joanna Yeates.

Dr. Delaney: “The evidence is consistent with it being forceful enough, and in my opinion it is difficult to quantify on a subjective scale.”

Pressed again on the use of “moderate force”, Dr Delaney said: “I am not disagreeing, but it is not the phraseology that I would use if asked to express it.”

Mr. Clegg referred to the evidence from partygoer Zoe Lehman, who had said that she recalled hearing a scream, a two-second gap, a second muffled scream and then a thud coming from the direction of Joanna Yeates’s flat on the night she died. “– In any view, a period of less than 10 seconds,” Mr Clegg said. “Is it your view that what that lady and her husband heard could represent the time span of the events that led to Joanna's death?”

Dr Delaney: “It could do but the event could have taken longer than that, yes.”

On 17th October 2011 Counsel for the Prosecution Nigel Lickley QC asked pathologist Russell Delaney about Vincent Tabak’s claim that he had held Joanna Yeates’s throat “for about 20 seconds”. Dr. Delaney said: “That period of time would be long enough to result in her death.”

Counsel for the Defence William Clegg QC, cross-examining Dr. Delaney, suggested that his client had used just one hand to strangle her – a hand larger than the average hand perhaps. Dr. Delaney said he “cannot exclude the use of one hand” being used. Mr. Clegg asked whether it would have been impossible for Miss Yeates to scream as her neck was being squeezed. “That would depend on the nature of the neck compression,” Dr. Delaney replied. Dr. Delaney added that the injuries were consistent with being strangled by either one or two hands and that blood on her T-shirt may have been deposited after death.

Mr Clegg asked Dr Delaney whether the fact that Joanna Yeates’s body was frozen could have affected the number of injuries on her body. Dr. Delaney replied: “In this case the injuries I have identified, in my opinion, occurred during death.” Pressed again by Mr. Clegg, Dr. Delaney accepted that “under some circumstances, yes”, the formation of ice crystals in the body could appear after death occurred.

Dr. Delaney was also asked about a fractured thyroid horn which defence expert witness Dr Nat Cary had spotted was broken in a third post-mortem examination. The pathologist said “it did not appear broken” and said the fracture could have been there before death and became more pronounced during the post-mortem examinations.

The defence’s pathologist takes the stand

On 21st October 2011 the defence’s pathologist Dr. Nathaniel Cary entered the witness box. He told the court that as recently as the preceding fortnight he had been giving evidence in court in two other cases of “neck compression”. He added that he had testified in several well-known cases, including the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from Soham, the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich, and the death of Ian Tomlinson in the City of London. He was cross-examined by Mr Clegg.

Dr. Cary told the Court that Joanna’s attack would NOT have been sustained. He suggested that Tabak had used “moderate” force to kill Joanna – strangling her with one hand. Dr. Cary also pinpointed a slight fracture to the cartilage of the voice box, which he claimed backed up his account that Tabak more than likely just put one hand around Joanna’s throat.

William Clegg QC asked Dr. Cary: “Are the injuries consistent with one hand being used to strangle?”

Dr. Cary replied: “Yes. I would think the amount of pressure applied would be in the moderate range.”

Mr. Clegg: “Do you have any previous experience of examining the victims of sexually motivated attacks?”

Dr. Cary: “Yes”.

Mr. Clegg asked Dr. Cary whether he thought that Joanna Yeates had been sexually assaulted.

A wall along the eastern side of Longwood Lane
opposite the spot where Joanna’s body was
alleged to have been found
Dr. Cary replied that there was no evidence to suggest this. There was no evidence that Joanna Yeates’s genital area had been interfered with. It is not impossible for sexual assault to occur and leave no marks. But the fact that Joanna Yeates’s clothing was found on her body and that her jeans were in place suggested that she had not sustained a serious sexual attack, he added. Dr Cary said he thought the most likely explanation for Joanna Yeates’s top riding up and exposing her bra would be during the attempts by her killer to dump her body over a wall in Longwood Lane – something Vincent Tabak himself maintained was correct – rather than any sexual motivation, as suggested by the prosecution.

Mr. Clegg asked Dr. Cary about the significance of the lack of injury to Joanna Yeates’s private parts.

Dr. Cary answered: “It means at the end of the day that the suggestion that this was a primarily sexually motivated attack is largely speculative.”

Mr. Clegg asked the pathologist whether asphyxiation could form part of a sexually motivated attack

Dr Cary replied, “There are some people, probably a pretty small number in the population, who become sexually aroused by asphyxiating someone,” he told the jury. “It is fair to say there are some people who become sexually aroused by being asphyxiated.”

Both Mr. Clegg and Dr. Cary omitted to attach the crucial qualifying phrase “during sexual intercourse”.

Mr. Clegg asked Dr. Cary if he endorsed the testimony by the Home Office pathologist that the victim could have been killed inside as little as 10 seconds of compression to the neck using moderate force.

Dr. Cary replied that he did not fundamentally disagree with Dr. Delaney on this point, because it is difficult to put a time on it. Joanna Yeates’s death would not have been “instantaneous” but likely to have taken a “period of time such as 20 seconds or more – although I would say a bit longer than 10 seconds in order to see the nature and extent of changes present here. And that’s why I would probably opt for something in the region of 20 seconds. But I would readily accept it is an incredibly inexact science.”

Dr. Cary said the medical evidence suggested Joanna Yeates suffered a fairly short one-handed neck compression, possibly as short as ten seconds, and cause of death could have been attributable to a sudden stopping of the heart. He explained that compression to areas in the neck can slow and stop the heart. “Compression of the neck can kill you a lot quicker than it takes to run out of air”. Dr. Cary would have expected more bruising if two hands had been used. Injuries were consistent with one hand being used.

The court was again shown a close-up photo of Joanna’s face. Dr Cary stated that it was “virtually uninjured”. It looked as if Joanna had not been subjected to “blunt force” assault, he added. Dr Cary thought that the redness on Joanna’s nose had been caused when her body froze and her skin was damaged.

The court was shown a photo of an abrasion over Joanna’s lip. Dr Cary thought that this could have been caused by a fall – or by a hand held over her mouth.

The pathologist explained that several injuries can be caused by the same act. He told the court that  he had found a fracture of the cartilage of Joanna’s voice box, which was not found in first post-mortem examination.

The court was shown photos of an injury on the left side of Joanna’s collar bone, and of marks on the back of her neck. Dr. Cary said that the latter were made by finger nails. He said there was no evidence of Miss Yeates’s clawing at her neck when she was strangled, but simply marks made by the finger nails of her attacker.

Photos of injuries on Joanna’s “trunk” were displayed. Dr. Cary thought that they could be “grappling” injuries, or could have resulted from a fall. He told the jury that a graze on her right breast could have been caused by her clothes lifting up when she was moved. Injuries to Joanna’s chest could be from when the body was moved, as they appeared to have been caused after death, he added.

Dr. Cary said that many of the injuries found on her body were minor, and there was no evidence of a violent assault to her torso. He said he was unable to discern if some of the abrasions were caused before or after death.

Mr. Clegg asked Dr. Cary whether marks seen on a photo of Joanna’s right arm were caused by its being gripped. The pathologist agreed.

The jury were shown a photo of a clear mark on Joanna’s right wrist. This was incurred while she was still alive, according to Dr. Cary.

The court adjourned for lunch. Dr. Cary returned to the witness stand, and the court was shown photos of Joanna’s left arm. There were bruises on her left-hand, which could have occurred either during the “incident”, or when her body was being moved, he said.

The marks seen in a photo of her ankle could have resulted from her body freezing and then thawing out, he said.

Dr. Cary explained that some victims of strangulation may cause themselves injuries while trying to escape their killer’s grip. There were no such injuries on Joanna’s body, however.

The court was shown a photo taken of the scar on Vincent Tabak’s arm after he had been arrested.

Counsel for the Prosecution examines the independent pathologist

Flowers in Longwood Lane after it was re-opened.
A patch of wall and three stones on top of it are lighter
than the rest, to persuade us to that this is where
stains of Joanna’s blood were found and the verge
below is where her body was dumped.
Cross-examining, Counsel for the Prosecution asked Dr. Cary if he agreed with the findings of the Home Office pathologist Dr. Delaney. He replied that he did. However he told the Prosecutor that it would be a mistake to ennumerate how many injuries someone has suffered, because it is not known how many “injury mechanisms” caused them.

While the court was shown a photo of an abrasion on Joanna’s cheek, Mr. Lickley asked whether she had still been alive when it was incurred. Dr. Cary could not say.

Mr. Lickley asked the pathologist if he agreed that the marks on Joanna’s wrists were the result of their being gripped. He replied that he did, adding “It is unlikely that this sort of thing happens with two people remaining bolt upright without moving.” He would have expected anyone with their airways restricted to struggle.

Mr. Lickley asked what Dr. Cary thought had caused the injury to Joanna’s nose. He replied that, in his initial report, he thought that Joanna might have had her nose damaged by being “forced into a soft furnishing” like a sofa. However he now thought it could have been caused by a hand over her mouth, or a fall to the ground.

“Death was not instantaneous”, he reiterated.

Mr. Lickley asked Dr. Cary if Joanna’s clothing could have been rucked up while she was still alive. He answered that this could not be ruled out.

Mr. Lickley asked the pathologist whether Joanna’s killer could have disturbed her clothing while attacking her, and then restored her clothes to make it appear that this had not happened. Dr. Cary replied that it is very difficult to re-dress a dead body.