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 myths about murder

“Women are most at risk of violence committed by someone they know, often in the home”

– The Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol, January 2011

Detectives should have concentrated
their limited resources on investigating
those who may have had a motive
to harm Joanna Yeates
A murderer does not need to have a motive  MYTH. According to Wikipedia: “Motive is particularly important in prosecutions for homicide. ... murder is so drastic a crime that most people recoil from the thought of being able to do it; proof of motive explains why the accused did so desperate an act.” Murder is defined as a killing carried out with criminal intent. If there is intent, then there is also a motive. Although motiveless killings also occur, these are punished more leniently, owing to the absence of intent. Such a killing is designated manslaughter. Nevertheless, the law does allow a murder conviction to stand without the prosecution demonstrating a motive. It can be conjectured that these are the cases where an innocent person without a motive has been convicted by corrupt police shielding the true perpetrator and pretending to be incompetent. These are the murders that people remember, and this has created the myth that looking for a motive is unimportant. Avon & Somerset Constabulary have exploited this myth throughout this case by their public reticence about the killer’s motive. However it should be obvious that the leader of a genuine investigation with only 80 detectives should have concentrated his limited resources on investigating those of Joanna Yeatess known associates who might have had a motive to wish her harm, instead of pursuing the two strangers who they knew perfectly well had no motive.

Murder is characterized by such formidable taboos that a murderer without a motive would have to be a really “crazy, detached person” (more conventionally described as a psychopath, i.e., someone suffering from anti-social personality disorder, usually resulting from abuse in childhood) - while a less unbalanced person would have to have a really strong motive to commit murder. Mutilating their victims’ bodies and taking trophies are characteristic of a tiny minority of psychopathic killers who don’t have any motive other than to play games with the detectives. It may also be done to divert their attention from the motive. One of the factors that made Vincent Tabak’s “show” trial a charade was that neither Counsel made any attempt in court to elicit whether the defendant showed any psychopathic tendencies (despite DCI Phil Jones’s insistence that the mild-mannered Dutchman had taken the victim’s sock as a trophy), nor to establish a motive that the jury was prepared to believe in that could be attributed to a relatively balanced defendant.

The trouble with a motive for murder is that it is liable to attract attention. So, paradoxically, prospective murderers with strong motives almost always restrain themselves from carrying out the crime, as the motive will be obvious enough to lead even the least imaginative detective to come knocking at the door within a short space of time. The exception to this paradox is the murderer who has sufficient power over the police to force them to omit him from the list of suspects, and build up their case instead against a scapegoat. This is not necessarily difficult for the police, as an innocent person will have made no provision for an alibi, nor have taken any measures to avoid becoming a suspect. Former police officers, drug dealers, prominent persons, and high ranking military and intelligence personnel are among those who it can be conjectured are likely to be able to manipulate the police in this way.

Murder does not pay – MYTH. Murder is most likely to be committed by a person who is convinced that he or she will get away with it. This will occur if the killer:
  • can arrange to conceal the motive, e.g., by hiring a contract killer or coming to an arrangement with a “Stranger on a Train” who has a motive of his own and potential victim of his own
  • can arrange to incriminate an innocent person at a time when they least expect it
  • has sufficient influence on one or more vulnerable members of the police force in whose district the crime occurs to ensure that officers will go to great lengths to pervert the course of justice. A police officer who is under investigation on suspicion of malpractice is inherently vulnerable to pressure from above to assist in incriminating an innocent person in return for being spared disgrace. 
If the victim does not attract much sympathy, then such murders remain “unsolved”. However, high-profile victims who attract nationwide sympathy and outrage tend to lead to irresistible pressure from the media on those in charge of the investigation to look for a scapegoat.

Anyone could be a murderer – even your brother or your closest friend - MYTH. You are a law-abiding citizen, and so are your brother and your closest friends. This means no more than that you have consistently resisted the temptation to break the law, year in, year out, even though you have had frequent opportunities to knock over numerous little old ladies and steal their purses. Your only crime has been the occasional use of your mobile telephone while driving. Upholding the law, as you have been doing, benefits society, which functions as a whole only because most other people like you restrain themselves from committing crimes, day in, day out. Because of this, people trust each other. The benefit to the individual of upholding the law consistently is the personal trustworthiness he or she establishes. It needs only one criminal conviction destroy your “good character” and thereby society’s trust in you. Trust is something that works both ways. Society has an obvious obligation to acknowledge the investment that each of its law-abiding members has made in his or her own honour and reputation, just as society acknowledges private property rights. When police officers, lawyers, journalists and the general public are seen to disregard this personal investment in trustworthiness, and its value to society, then they are in effect inciting people to break the law.

Murder is a very serious, violent crime, even when committed without premeditation as a result of sudden passionate rage. It follows that the most probable perpetrator will turn out to be a serious, violent criminal - a person with a history of violence and previous convictions, but no incentive to develop the trust of law-abiding citizens. This is more than a statistical conclusion - it is also an ethical basis which the police are obliged be seen to follow. If the police are seen to choose their suspects on the basis of DNA profiles and absence of alibis, while playing down or disregarding the importance of the motive for the crime and the criminal records of the possible suspects, then they are openly discouraging obedience to the law and revealing that catching the actual murderer is not their main priority. Crime writers and journalists who promote the MYTH that trustworthy citizens are likely to commit sudden murder are both inciting crime and prompting the police to act corruptly. It is a MYTH that murder is somehow so different from other serious crimes that a law-abiding person would commit murder on some disproportionately minor pretext such as the rejection of his romantic advances.

Education has nothing to do with the make-up of a Murderer – MYTH. The police, the press, the public and professors are obliged to acknowledge the investment a potential murder suspect has made in his own education, with the same priority as the investment he has made in his personal trustworthiness, honour and reputation. Education benefits not just the educated individual himself, but also the rest of society. It follows from this that society has an obvious obligation to be seen to acknowledge that a law-abiding citizen with an education has a much higher incentive not to commit his first serious crime than one who has made no such investment in himself. This obligation diminishes in proportion to the status of the citizen, since people in positions of authority are constantly confronted by the need to decisions that require them to treat people as potentially dispensible.

Police officers, lawyers and judges can be trusted  MYTH. We need to trust each other and we need to believe that we can trust each other. This applies not just to individuals but also to the private companies and institutions of state on which society is dependent. We also breach this trust all the time! However, most of us make up for it by doing more than we are obliged to do! Most people believe that politicians breach the trust that the voters place in them more frequently than average, but on the other hand there is a very strong resistence to any suggestion that the police and the courts can and do breach the trust of the society they serve and the individuals who get into their clutches. We are all too willing to believe the impossible and twist the facts to fit what they want to believe rather than face up to evidence of a miscarriage of justice when they are confronted with it. The authority of the officer in uniform and that of the lawyer in legal wig and robe are enormously persuasive. That is why it is enormously important that this authority not be abused.

“In many cases the crucial issue of fact in a criminal trial is the inference to be drawn from the conduct of the accused under the proved circumstances” wrote the Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Bucknill in 1953. “...the verdict of the jury... must have been based on their conclusion as to the probable conduct and character of each of the accused.” Where there is no direct evidence of the act itself, the Court considers not “the probable conduct of any reasonable man or woman in the known circumstances, but the probable conduct of the particular persons concerned”.

Christopher Jefferies
Prior to the murder of Joanna Yeates, both Christopher Jefferies and Vincent Tabak were exceptionally trustworthy persons. We know that simply on the basis of the undisputed facts of their lives up to that weekend. Trust, honour and reputation form the fundamental basis of civilized society. We have to trust each other, and every law-abiding citizen has built up a stock of trust which gives him/her the freedom to act without suspicion. That is why each of them was so surprised to be under suspicion. Every law-abiding citizen also violates that trust occasionally to a limited extent. No one is perfect but Christopher Jefferies and Vincent Tabak were far better than most. Through their work and their personal relationships they had earned the right to be alone that night without anyone suspecting them of anything criminal. Vincent Tabak had earned the right, in fact, to have those pathetic “enhanced” DNA samples from the victim’s body questioned because of the person he was, on the basis that a mistake must have occurred somewhere or other. He had taken that job in Bath, far from his social network, in the expectation that people would trust him for what he was. He had settled in Clifton in the same expectation. He assumed he could trust the public authorities to trust him. But they violated that expectation grossly by entering into a covert deal five months before the trial that the jury was not to hear independent evidence of his good character.

Chief Constable
Colin Port
Defence QC William Clegg
Corruption is a third-world phenomenon – MYTH. Corruption and nepotism occurs wherever the old school tie is to be found and barristers’ clerks from rival chambers drink in the same pubs. Corruption occurs wherever men and women with similar backgrounds are attracted to the opposite sex. Wealthy countries, however, have more money than poor countries, and they use their wealth to delude their own citizens and those in third world countries into believing that they became wealthy by virtue of the transparency of their institutions. The murder of Joanna Yeates reveals how prevalent cronyism and agency problems can be in a wealthy country. The acquittal in Mauritius of Avinash Treebhoowoon and Sandip Moneea of the charge of murdering Michaela McAreavey after being subject to torture during police interrogation should be a lesson to those who convicted an innocent man for the murder of his neighbour in Clifton. While the behaviour of Vincent Tabak’s second defence team shows at every step that they were in the pocket of Avon & Somerset Constabulary, there is also evidence that the influence of its Chief Constable extends to the CPS, the Home Office, a variety of instances in the Netherlands (where both Colin Port and William Clegg QC served on the International War Crimes Tribunal in the 1990s) and even Manchester (where Mr. Port began his police career).

Most crimes against women are sex crimes  MYTH. “Women are most at risk of violence committed by someone they know, often in the home. For example, it is estimated that two women a week die as a result of domestic violence. This reality is distorted when attention is focused on the danger of violence from strangers. Men are in fact more likely than women to be victims of violence in public places” – The Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol, quoted in the Bristol Evening News, 11th January 2011. According to Greater Manchester Police (where Colin Port began his career), 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic abuse.

The majority of killers are men, and, when the victim is a woman, everyone wants to believe that sex must have been the motive. This shows how gullible “everyone” is, since killing the victim cannot have made it easier for the killer to achieve sexual satisfaction. Even if she has also been raped, then that is still not a fair assumption, unless the killer is supposed to have planned both to rape her and to kill her. In this case, the main motive for the killing is to prevent the victim from subsequently identifying her attacker.

Prosecuting QC
Nigel Lickley
Mr Justice Field
was not interested in
whether she had had sex
prior to being killed
However, if she has not been raped, then commonsense and statistics suggest that a domestic quarrel, jealousy, robbery, a ransome, blackmail, mistaken identity by a contract killer, or organized crime are more likely motives. Violence against women, occasionally with GBH or death as a consequence, is almost always perpetrated by a close family member, a boyfriend or a lover. Whether consensual sex has taken place prior to the murder or not is an important indicator of the probable motivation and the probable identity of the killer. Yet neither the Prosecuting QC, the Defence QC nor the judge at Vincent Tabak’s trial was interested in ascertaining whether or not Joanna Yeates had had sex prior to being killed. The motive for killing a female victim who has been promiscuous, especially with married men, and especially if she has been receiving money for sex, can be difficult to untangle. Both an unintended pregnancy and the transferring of a sexually transmitted disease are possible motives to investigate when a victim who may have had lovers is murdered.

The sex myth dies hard, particularly if the victim is pretty and petite, and the man accused of the crime is big and strong. After the conviction of Vincent Tabak the police went to great lengths to twist the facts to play on this myth and convince the media (in the face of the evidence they had all heard in court) that sex had been his motive for killing Joanna Yeates. Such is the authority of the police that the media and the general public did not need any convincing. They believed what they wanted to believe. They believe he forgot to rape her before strangling her, bizarre as it sounds, because there is no other rational explanation for doing what he was tricked into admitting he had done – even though he hadn’t.

Influential 62-year-old IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn had no previous criminal convictions nor any history of violence nor assaults on women when he was accused of raping a New York hotel chamber-maid in 2011. He had a privileged family background and a lot of political enemies. 41-year-old Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange had had a disrupted childhood and a non-custodial conviction for hacking but no previous convictions for violance nor assaults on women, when he was accused of raping two women with whom he had also had consensual sex while in Sweden for a conference. The influential US federal government is his principal enemy. Unknown 32-year-old Vincent Tabak had had an unexceptional upbringing in a large intellectual family, a high education, a well-paid job, no known enemies, and only one girlfriend, but no previous convictions of any kind, nor any history of violence, assaults on women nor unpredictable behaviour, when he was accused of motivelessly murdering a 25-year-old woman whom he did not know. Lawyers who were supposed to be independent of each other collaborated to misuse innocent details of his intimate life, mislead the jury at his trial, and pervert the course of justice.

Family liaison officer
Russ Jones read out a statement
attributed to the Yeates family
outside Bristol Crown Court
Torture is not found in democratic countries – MYTH. The use of blackmail and various forms of torture have been used and are still being used to frightening effect against Vincent Tabak and his family. A large and hypocritical sector of public opinion in the democratic countries, furthermore, is openly in favour of torture, provided the victims of it are unpopular, and provided it is not carried out directly by security officers employed in their own country. We heard more than an echo of this sentiment in the statement attributed to the Yeates family read out by a police officer after the trial.

Fictionalized detectives are modelled on real-life police officers – MYTH. Far from being motivated by a desire to find out the truth, punish the guilty and protect the innocent, the work of real-life detectives is dominated by the imperative of satisfying their senior officers, who are in turn under pressure from politicians and the media to secure as many convictions as possible. This situation puts bent cops at an advantage compared with the conscientious members of the force. The result is a lot more innocent convictions than the public wants to know about. Just like every other well-functioning member of society, police officers function by developing their networks and collaborating with their friends and acquaintances. Since police come into contact with a much higher proportion of evil wrongdoers than other people, their networks are overburdened by evil and corruption. Just like everyone else, pay and promotion are their main interests, and just as with everyone else, embroidering the truth is part of their everyday lives. However, police officers have a near-monopoly of naked power that is denied most other members of society - except criminals. This naked power corrupts those who have it, and it ensures that, by and large, the only police officers who ever get punished for corruption are those who have offended someone more powerful and corrupt than themselves. If Avon & Somerset Constabulary is anything to go by, then deceiving the public and manipulation of the media are standard tools of law enforcement, and systematically playing off the families of the victim and the accused against each other in public is standard practice.

Prisoners who get their own cell and their own TV lead cushy lives – MYTH. Prisons do vary. Having to share a cell in an overcrowded prison with a psychopathic drug-addicted weirdo is undoubtedly a lot more unpleasant than having your own cell. Some prisons serve undrinkable tea as a way to discourage inmates from returning if they can possibly help it. However, no prison, however cushy its cells, allows inmates to do any of the countless things that makes us human beings. The purpose of prison is to deprive inmates of the opportunity to exercise choice in the major issues of everyday life – especially the society you keep. All prisons treat inmates as slaves, and whether you have a soft bed and a TV or a draughty stone cubicle pails into insignificance beside that fundamental fact.

The Emperor’s New Clothes – FAIRYTALE. Once upon a time, a team of deceitful, manipulative tailors succeeded in winning a fat contract to manufacture a set of imaginary royal regalia. They got away with the deception by explaining that its fine fabric would be invisible to idiots. Even the cheering crowds lining the route of the emperor’s ceremonial procession were convinced, until a small boy exposed the embarassed emperor by crying out, “But he has no clothes on!” After publishing this story, the celebrated Danish writer H. C. Andersen had his Arts Council grant cut on the personal instructions of the King of Denmark, who was alarmed at the prospect of his people losing their illusions. The MYTH lies in the author’s claim that the people paid heed to the small boy. On the contrary, the Facebook forum Joanna Yeates - discussion of the case that was abruptly shut down on 23rd April 2012 proves that a real-world small boy would have been lynched and his father thrown into the deepest dungeon. The mob never willingly gives up its cherished illusions, clinging desparately to its naive belief that the forces of law and order are infallible and only the wicked get punished.