“Creepy. So they really think she left home by herself?”
– Tanja Morson, 22nd December 2010, on Joanna Yeates’s disappearance
Vincent Tabak is just as unlikely a murderer as his landlord (but the jury was not told this). He is a very quiet, introspective man, who had never had a steady girlfriend until 2008, after he took out a subscription to The Guardian’s dating site Soulmates, which brought his girlfriend into his life and his first stable, loving relationship. They started dating in November 2008.
|Vincent Tabak and Tanja Morson at Stonehenge (2008,|
2009 or 2010). Was Joanna Yeates ritually sacrificed
here by an unknown group at the Winter Solstice?
|Dyson Ltd. headquarters|
Quiet and mild-mannered Vincent Tabak initially struggled to settle into life in Britain. He lived alone in a one-bedroom flat and was seldom seen by neighbours socialising. However, friends said his life changed after he met Tanja Morson. Vincent Tabak is said to have come out of his shell, attending and organising social events with her. She and Vincent Tabak moved together into the larger of the two ground-floor flats at 44 Canynge Road, Clifton, Bristol, in June 2009. According to his close friend from his postgraduate years, Erik Blokhuis, Vincent took Tanja to Eindhoven to meet him, and she made a very good impression on him because she was so open and friendly. It was clear that they were very happy together, and subsequent encounters confirmed his belief that the couple would marry.
For part of the time when Vincent Tabak was working in the USA for five weeks in November and December 2010, a younger friend of Tanja’s, Elizabeth Marland, lodged in the flat with her for three weeks.
The Dyson office partyOn the last evening that Joanna Yeates spent with friends at the Bristol Ram pub, 17th December 2010, Tanja went off in the special bus to Dyson’s staff Christmas party directly after work. At 7.15 p.m. she texted Vincent: “Love you. Bus is very quiet and tame. Only me and Nic drinking”. He replied, “Love you too” and then “Missing you”. She was there until after midnight. At 9.25 p.m., Vincent Tabak sent her a text that read: “Missing you loads, it is boring here without you Vxx.” He sent another text message to his girlfriend at 10.30 p.m.: “How are you. I am at Asda buying some crisis (sic). I am bored – cannot wait to pick you up.”
After the party had ended early next morning (18th December 2010), she returned to Bristol in the Dyson bus. At 1.32 a.m. she telephoned Vincent to tell him she was ready to be collected. He was already waiting there with the car to meet the bus. The couple stopped at a takeaway on the way home to collect a fast-food snack. They were captured on a CCTV camera there walking arm-in-arm at 1.38 a.m.
In the course of that Saturday, Christopher Jefferies asked Vincent Tabak for help with moving his car on the icy ground in the private car park associated with 44 Canynge Road after heavy snow had fallen during the night. He and Tanja Morson noticed that the landlord’s Volvo was facing the opposite direction from the evening before. It was parked facing the road. On the Friday evening it had been parked facing away from the road. It is possible that Vincent and Tanja noticed evidence of activity, such as lights being switched on or off, in the neighbouring flat, at a time when there was supposed to be no one at home.
|Birthday party down on Bristol’s harbourside|
Greg Reardon claimed that he saw both Vincent Tabak and Tanja Morson walk past his window when they returned home. It has not emerged where they went on the evening of 19th December 2010.
A year later, in ITV’s ‘Real Crime’ documentary “Murder at Christmas”, Joanna’s parents fabricated an anecdote in which they claimed they had been approached just outside the house by Tanja Morson and Vincent Tabak while they were going round in the snow and the dark looking for clues to the cause of their daughter’s disappearance. Tanja, they explained, had asked, “is there anything I can do?” She had shown great sympathy for their situation, they claimed, whereas her boyfriend had taken a step back, and did not say anything. This malicious attempt to discredit Tanja’s boyfriend conflicts with what David Yeates had told reporters the day Vincent was arrested: “I have never heard of Vincent Tabak, nor had Jo ever mentioned him. I have never met anyone who lives in flat two of Jo’s block.”
The neighbour vanishes
20th December 2010:
Vincent: “Hi gorgeous, I’m not feeling ok. I’m at work. It’s such a horrible thing to be thinking of.”
Vincent, later: “Wish we could leave for Cambridge this evening. Leave this mess behind. Missing you loads. V x x x.”
Tanja: “Hope she will turn up at home all of a sudden.”
Vincent: “I will make sure you are not home alone. Let’s hope nothing bad happened and she is discovered healthy and well today/tomorrow.”
That evening, Glen O’Hare, a lecturer friend of Tanja Morson’s, hosted a dinner that she attended with her boyfriend. Vincent Tabak had seemed worried, tired and slightly miserable, and had remarked that he had not seen Joanna Yeates’s cat during the weekend she went missing. In a statement he gave to police that was read out in court, Glen O’Hare testified that he remembered Vincent Tabak playing with his two cats, while the rest of the group discussed the case of his missing neighbour.
21st December 2010:
Vincent e-mailed Tanja: “Hi gorgeous I am not sure why I am at work. Maybe not just be at home. Missing you, hope you are able to do some work. I am not sure what, if I am, going to tell my colleagues. Don’t want to upset them too, it’s such a horrible thing to be thinking of. Maybe I’m just going to tell them that I’m not feeling okay which is somewhat the truth. Love you.”
Vincent, later that morning: “I’m so tired I can’t really concentrate. Maybe it’s not too bad to have some distraction at work with being at home now; I am not sure what to do. What do you think? Wish we could leave for Cambridge this evening and leave the mess behind. Missing you loads.”
|44 Canynge Road|
Vincent: “That I can imagine. I will make sure you are not home alone or have to walk alone. I was also thinking that if something bad happened, I don’t want to live there any more. Too scary and we can always move in with Liz.”
Tanja, later: “It’s horrible. You read those stories but you don’t expect to know the person. Of course Miss Yeates is missing at this time and it doesn’t sound great and she was probably walking home after the Ram rather than walked off somewhere in error. I don’t understand the possessions being left in the flat. Sometimes people do just leave their stuff behind by accident. Claire reguarly does that.”
Vincent: “Indeed you don’t expect that, I never met her really. But still horrible... At least there is no sign of foul play, that is a slight relief. Let’s hope she is found asap.”
22nd December 2010:
At Stonehenge, neither cloudy skies nor bitter cold prevented a large crowd of Druids, pagans and hippies from ritually celebrating sunrise at the Winter Solstice. Tanja, explaining to Vincent that she had been looking online for news of the police investigation into Joanna’s disappearance, wrote: “I’m expecting the family to make a TV appeal; that usually happens.”
Vincent, enclosing a link to a news website: “Apparently there has already been a press conference.”
Tanja: “Creepy. So they really think she left home by herself?”
Vincent: “Maybe it’s linked to the headaches she had.”
Tanja: “Shall we try to minimise talking about it tonight? It really overwhelms me today and I wouldn’t mind some distraction from it.”
Vincent: “If you want to talk about it, then that’s of course fine.”
Vincent, later: “Missing our zillion emails but I know you are very busy at work and I am missing you loads. Can’t wait to pack and go to Cambridge and I will make sure I am at home on time today, so you don’t have to be home alone.”
23rd December 2010:
Tanja writes that she is feeling “unsettled” by the police investigation.
Vincent: “I am feeling the same and a change of scenary will make a huge difference and I’m not able to check the news all the time.”
Tanja, later: “Don’t read the latest BBC News – it’s very upsetting. There is no news except she bought a pizza at Tesco and they can’t find evidence of that in the flat, although her wallet and receipts are there. Her family and Greg are suffering so much, it is hard to read, I had to get up from my desk.”
Vincent: “Hi gorgeous, I read that story before I went out (to buy you a couple of presents). Indeed very upsetting. Didn’t want to tell you. The whole situation is very mysterious. What happened with the pizza but of course, more importantly with her????”
Vincent, later that afternoon: “Looking forward to seeing you later. I will try to be less upset and more cheerful. I think it would help if I read less news.”
Vincent tells Tanja that their flat will have to be searched by police. He writes: “– as Chris [Jefferies] put it – to make sure that there are no dead bodies in our flat.” If either Vincent or Tanja had anything illegal in their possession, such as e.g. cannabis or illegal photos of young children, they would certainly have made sure of disposing of it before this search was made. A Detective Constable, Karen Thomas, came to search their flat, possibly while the occupants were out, either before they left for Cambridge, or afterwards.
Christmas vacationAfter work on Thursday 23rd December 2010, Vincent Tabak and Tanja Morson left Clifton to spend Christmas with her parents near Cambridge. Then on 28th December 2010 they travelled to the Netherlands through the Channel Tunnel for the new year, and visited his mother, his brother, his three sisters and his seven young nieces and nephews.
|The theatrical removal of Joanna Yeates’s front-door|
|DC Karen Thomas|
Camping out in Aberdeen RoadTanja Morson and Vincent Tabak returned to England on 2nd January 2011. The couple had decided to move out of at 44 Canynge Road temporarily, most probably because the police had now designated their flat as part of a crime scene, or just because they found the continued presence of forensics personnel scary. They anticipated that Elizabeth Marland would be prepared to return a favour and let them stay with her, but it turned out that an accountant friend of Tanja’s, Emily Williams, was taking a long holiday in South America, and was willing to let them stay in her flat at 37 Aberdeen Road, Cotham.
|37 Aberdeen Road, Cotham.|
On 15th January 2011 Tanja Morson and Vincent Tabak attended a dinner party hosted by a friend, engineer Andrew Lillie, and his partner Laura, at their home in the St. Andrews district of Bristol. The couple sat holding hands under the table, and Tanja told another guest, Louise Abthorpe, that she and Vincent planned to marry and start a family in the course of the year. They seemed relaxed and happy, and Sarah Maddock would categorize their behaviour towards each other as “tactile”.
Vincent is snatched awayAccording to DCI Phil Jones in a TV interview (Countdown to Murder, 2015), Tanja Morson was shocked when her boyfriend was arrested on 20th January 2011.
After Vincent Tabak’s arrest, Mike Sullivan (crime editor), Alex Peake and John Coles (South-West Correspondent) in The Sun (21st January 2011) reported that Avon & Somerset Constabulary had received an anonymous telephone tip-off: “JO Yeates murder hunt cops arrested her Dutch neighbour after a tip-off from a sobbing girl, The Sun can reveal. She rang after this week’s emotional Crimewatch appeal for information by Jo’s parents. News of the dramatic anonymous telephone call emerged as detectives were granted more time yesterday to quiz Vincent Tabak, 32... Cops received information from the woman hours after releasing an emotional TV appeal recorded this week for the BBC1 Crimewatch show by Jo’s parents David and Teresa. They had begged anyone with information to come forward. A source said: ‘The caller said she was moved to tears by what David and Teresa said and felt she had to pass on what she knew.’ The information has opened up vital new lines of inquiry for detectives hunting 25-year-old Jo’s killer.”
No reference was made in court to this alleged tip-off at his subsequent trial. This manipulative and deceitful statement was the first shot in the campaign aimed at weakening the relationship between the accused and his girlfriend by hinting that it was she who had betrayed him. His family vehemently denied that Tanja Morson was the “sobbing girl” or that she had had anything to do with his being arrested. By pretending that a tip-off was the basis for his arrest, the police probably succeeded in tricking the duty solicitor into disregarding the significance of the phone-call from Tanja that resulted in the Schiphol interview. Not until after Vincent’s appearance before the magistrate’s bench would the public prosecutor bring out the allegation that he had attempted to incriminate the landlord as one of the grounds for refusing bail.
The only other known candidate for the role of “sobbing girl”, had she existed, is Linda Marland, who recollected that Vincent Tabak had seemed “disinterested” at the party she had hosted the day after Joanna Yeates disappeared. Her witness statement was read out at his trial, but the court was not told whether she had volunteered it, nor how long after the event it had been taken.
|Journalist Peter Dominiczak|
Questioned about the Dell laptop computer that police had confiscated, according to David Bartlett QC (The Guardian, 2nd March 2015), Tanja told detectives that Vincent, whom she described as being “very good” at computers, would use his laptop while sitting in his lounge. She told the officers that he admitted to having had “a lot of pornographic material on the computer” (according to The Mirror, 2nd March 2015), but had claimed to have deleted it before they moved in together.
The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, 21st January 2011:
Miss Morson, who is a treasury analyst at Dyson, has run for the Bristol-based Westbury Harriers club and both she and Tabak have taken part in several ten-kilometre running events. Her parents, speaking from their Cambridgeshire home, confirmed she had a relationship with with Tabak. Geoffrey Morson said: “We are a very close family and I speak to my daughter all the time but she has not told me anything. I do not know if he is her boyfriend or not. He’s a boy, she’s a girl and they are friendly with each other. Obviously this is a murder investigation and the public have the right to know about it but I don’t know any more than I have read in the newspapers.” Miss Morson’s mother Elizabeth said she was concerned Tabak would have his name blackened like Miss Yeates’s landlord who was questioned by police in the early stages of the investigation. She said: “We saw what happened to the landlord and we don’t want the same to happen to lovely Vincent.”
During the course of his interrogation at the police station after his arrest, Vincent Tabak submitted three statements to the police who were questioning him. In the third of these statements, he declared that after the disappearance of Joanna Yeates he had been the sole user of a computer that he and his girlfriend had shared. This action suggests that the police had threatened to implicate Tanja Morson in conspiring to pervert the course of justice, and that they would continue to hold that threat over Vincent Tabak.
|The boot of Tanja Morson’s Renault Megane.|
Official photo shown to the jury and released to the press
during Vincent Tabak’s trial
- This kind of forensic evidence is extremely vulnerable to both contamination during collection and analysis, and cross-contamination, especially when one bears in mind that luggage and shopping get put into and taken out of car boots and placed temporarily on the ground, where they could pick up microscopic particles deposited by Joanna Yeates’s cat Bernard.
- Furthermore the samples were so small that they got destroyed in the process of analysis, precluding any possibility of their independent analysis by a different laboratory engaged by the defence.
- If Vincent Tabak really had transported Joanna’s body in the boot of Tanja’s car, he would have been well aware of the need to remove traces of her so thoroughly that no forensic examination could reveal that she had ever been there. He had nearly five weeks when he could have done this, e.g., by getting the lining of the baggage compartment steam-cleaned or replaced.
The scapegoatFrom The Mail, 23rd January 2011: Asked if Mr Reardon was planning to leave Bristol, Mr. Yeates replied: ‘I don’t know what his plans are.’ Mr. Yeates’s comments come as speculation grows over the relationship between Tabak and his girlfriend Tanja Morson, a financial analyst at Dyson Appliances in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. She has emerged as a crucial witness as detectives piece together Tabak’s movements at the time Miss Yeates went missing. Why did she never testify at his trial?
None of the family was in the public gallery at any of the preliminary hearings, nor was Tanja Morson. None of the journalists made any comments about her absence.
|Long Lartin prison|
- That the lawyer had advised him to plead guilty to a crime committed by another
- That the CPS were threatening to charge his girlfriend with attempting to incriminate the landlord and/or pervert the course of justice as the “sobbing girl” unless he agreed to plead guilty
- That the police were trying to make out that he was a sexual pervert because they could not find any other motive for the crime
- An unwelcome sexual encounter that may have been forced on him in prison
The police probably sought to exploit her vulnerability by trying to persuade Vincent Tabak’s girlfriend that he had been obsessively viewing adult pornographic videos allegedly found on his computer and that he had been patronising Californian prostitutes, so as to increase his isolation. No evidence from named witnesses was ever produced that he did these things, but the public was eventually told that he did, and they believed it. It can be conjectured that the offer to help the prisoner “tell his girlfriend” suggests that the Salvation Army chaplain may have been involved as a go-between, and possibly not a very scrupulous one.
The day after his 33rd birthday, Vincent Tabak received his first prison visit on 11th February 2011 from his girlfriend Tanja and his brother Marcel, who, when accosted by a waiting journalist, The Sun’s John Coles, insisted that Vincent was innocent. It was no coincidence that this was also the day of Joanna Yeates’s funeral. The Home Office probably intended to ensure that Tanja Morson did not attract media sympathy by attending her neighbour’s funeral.
On 4th March 2011 the landlord was released from bail. The police must have decided that there was no longer any risk of his revealing anything publicly that might prejudice their case against Vincent Tabak. There is no indication of whether it was Christopher Jefferies himself who precipitated the timing, or an event in the development of the case itself that did so. This may have been the time when Tanja Morson gave in to pressure from a police officer not to support Vincent Tabak any longer. It was possibly because of the claims about his viewing of pornography and contacts to prostitutes, or after learning whatever it was he had explained to the chaplain he would find “difficult telling his girlfriend”.
The plea hearingTanja Morson may have been among the members of the public who went to Bristol Crown Court on 4th May 2011, the date fixed by judge Colman Treacy for Vincent Tabak’s plea and case management hearing. When they arrived, they learnt that no such hearing was being held there. Only selected journalists and Joanna’s parents had been tipped off that the hearing was to be held the following day, more than 100 miles away, at the Old Bailey in London. The judge and the defence lawyers had all been changed, so there was no one in court who knew the defendant and would have recognised him, nor anyone who had even met him before – with the possible exception of DCI Phil Jones (who was present but is believed to have remained outside the courtroom to avoid compromising himself). The police would not have gone to such lengths to remove all guarantees against the person seen on the video screen’s being an imposter unless they had engaged an actor to impersonate Vincent Tabak.
After the Manslaughter plea entered by this person became known, on 5th May 2011, all public support for Vincent Tabak from his friends, former fellow students and his girlfriend’s parents evaporated like dew before the morning sun. She herself had already disappeared from public view. Unlike the shocked Tabak family representative in Holland, Paul Vermeij, Tanja Morson’s father was not lost for words when he was approached at his home by journalists. It was as if he, like Joanna Yeates’s parents, had known what was coming. Geoffrey Morson said: “This is a tragic case for everyone, especially the Yeates family and for us and the Tabak family and anyone who knew those involved. It is in the hands of the British judicial system now. I do not know if my daughter Tanja is still with Vincent. She did go and visit Vincent in prison but that was some weeks ago.”
Why didn't the jury hear Tanja Morson’s evidence?How could anyone believe it was a fair trial so long as she was not called as a witness? The jury did not hear ALL the evidence. Why was Vincent Tabak’s girlfriend not called to testify in court?
- Neither the Prosecution nor the Defence wanted the jury to hear all the evidence
- If Tanja Morson knew that the landlord had told the police that he had seen Joanna alive after she herself was able to give Vincent a solid alibi, then it would contradict the plea that formed the basis for the trial.
- Some kind of a deal may have been struck to protect her. No journalist ever got near her. Perhaps Vincent Tabak felt himself honour bound to sign the “enhanced” statement in return for a guarantee that she would not be charged on suspicion of conspiring to attempt to implicate the landlord and of being the “sobbing girl”, nor obliged to appear in court. Perhaps her father agreed to issue a statement after the trial denouncing her boyfriend, in return for her being kept out of court. Perhaps her employer Dyson was able to put pressure on the Prosecution.
- Did her boyfriend belong to that very small sector of the population who gets satisfaction from strangulation sex?
- Did they have sex after she returned from her office party?
- When did he get the injuries to his arm and toe?
- Did he have a cycle-bag that disappeared at the same time as Joanna?
- Did he clean up his clothes after Joanna disappeared?
- Did he have difficulty in sleeping and drink more heavily after Joanna disappeared?
- Her boyfriend’s character?
- His behaviour prior to the killing, which could have helped the jury decide whether he intended to kill Joanna or not?
- Whether she thought he knew Joanna professionally or not?
- The accused’s behaviour after the killing, even though evidence was read out from Vincent Tabak’s boss, and several of her friends who knew him much less well than she did, as well as a succession of police officers who did not know him at all?
- Whether it was she or her boyfriend who decided to phone the police about the landlord’s car?
- Whether she was the “sobbing girl”?
|Mr. Justice Richard Field|
“Last night, devastated Tanja, who met Tabak on the internet, was in New Zealand. Her bosses at vacuum cleaner firm Dyson let her take leave to flee the country while the husband-to-be she never suspected was a monster went on trial for Jo’s murder” (The Sun, 29th October 2011.). Was it to avoid being served a writ to give evidence that she fled abroad?
The judge Mr. Justice Field told Vincent Tabak, “In my view you are very dangerous. In my opinion you are thoroughly deceitful, dishonest and manipulative”. That opinion was delivered after an acquaintance of less than three weeks’ duration under non-ideal conditions – an astonishing description which neither Vincent Tabak’s girlfriend, his colleagues at work, his landlord, nor any of the other people who had known him would have recognized.
A complicated questionFrom The Cambridge News, 29th October 2011:
Geoffrey Morson, of Babraham, father of Vincent Tabak’s partner Tanja Morson, hopes the verdict delivered yesterday by a jury at Bristol Crown Court will help the Yeates family come to terms with the terrible loss. Speaking after the verdict, Mr. Morson told the News: “We now know at least what the result is and we would like to take some time to let it sink in. The result has been achieved with all due process of the law.” Mr. Morson had previously stood by Vincent Tabak immediately after his arrest. Asked what he thought of him now, he said: “That is a very complicated question and it will take some time to know that. Let’s just take it one step at a time. The verdict has just been delivered.” Asked how his daughter, who has not spoken to the press, felt about the verdict, he said: “I can’t comment on that but I can say that all of us, particularly the Yeates family, who have been affected by this, need a chance to take it in.” He added: “It is very important, especially for the Yeates family, that this is resolved but they, and we, will never fully put this behind us. The legal process has done a very full and comprehensive job and I hope it helps everyone to move on as best they can.” Mr Morson would not discuss the Christmas that Vincent Tabak spent in his home.
Tanja is copingFrom The Daily Telegraph, 29th October 2011:
Geoffrey Morson issued a statement on behalf of his daughter. Miss Morson said: “I send my deepest sorrow and sympathy to the Yeates family for their loss, and I am thankful to the judge and jury, the barristers and solicitors for all their ongoing attention and professionalism.”
Her father said she had been taken in by Tabak’s protestations of innocence after his arrest – as too had his family in the Netherlands – and was still coming to terms with the disclosure after his conviction that he used prostitutes and was apparently obsessed by violent pornography. “She is still absorbing the verdict and all the material made public since it was delivered. In coming to terms with it all, this is just the first step,” His daughter is understood to have moved abroad in the wake of the murder and was not present at the trial.
“Tanja is coping. We are all coping. Our first thoughts, as ever, are for the Yeates family. We have gone from a position at the time of Vincent’s arrest of a total belief in his innocence to the point where we accept there may be more for the police to investigate. I echo what the judge said about him now he has been convicted of a very serious crime. He fooled us. He fooled everybody.”
Mr Morson and his son Gunter had flown to the Netherlands to meet Tabak’s family, he said. “They at that time were totally convinced of his innocence, and they were in a position to know him better than anybody. After he confessed, it was difficult for us all because we didn’t know what he was saying about Tanja. But we had total faith in our daughter and knew she had done nothing wrong.”
Referring to the Christmas day when the news came that Joanna’s body had been found, Geoffrey Morson paraphrased an observation of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, “You live your life in a forward direction, not a backwards one. Vincent and Tanja were quite normal.”
He was cunning and dishonestAfter the trial, the CPS issued a statement about Vincent Tabak containing the following sentence: “He was cunning and dishonest towards his girlfriend with whom he maintained a normal relationship…” This forced Tanja Morson to issue her only statement: “I would like to extend my deepest sorrow and sympathy to the Yeates family for their loss. I am thankful to the judge, the jury, the barristers and solicitors for all their ongoing attention and professionalism.” If she really intended to renounce him, she would have acknowledged that she had been the “sobbing girl” who allegedly tipped off the police. But neither the police nor the prosecution ever testified to the “sobbing girl” in court.
Sever all connectionsAfter the conviction of her boyfriend for murder, Tanja Morson will have been urged by the authorities, in her own interest, to hand over to them any letters he wrote to her and any presents he gave her. It is standard practice.
The March 2013 edition of The Treasurer reported that Tanja Morson had left Dyson for the post of treasury manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at shower maker Kohler Mira.