“A girl matching Jo’s description”
– quoted by Nigel Lickley QC, 2011
The case papers served on Vincent Tabak’s defence lawyers by the Crown on or before 1st April 2011 included two items of so-called “bad character evidence” – evidence of legal adult pornographic videos that police alleged the defendant had viewed, and evidence of wholly legal contacts that they alleged he had made to prostitutes during business trips to Yorkshire and California. After Vincent Tabak had been arrested, detectives examined his computers. The collection of commercial pornographic videos and the evidence of his viewing of legal online porn, if these existed, were allegedly found by unidentified detectives on his computers.
|Mr. Justice Field|
Counsel for the Prosecution (who was not under oath) described the “bad character evidence” to the Court, and Counsel for the Defence argued that it was inadmissible as evidence. Mr. Justice Field found in favour of the defence. In return, Counsel for the Prosecution demanded, and got, an unreported undertaking on the part of Counsel for the Defence not to present any “good character evidence” to the jury, with devastating effect. Was the judge party to this deal?
There is a great deal of evidence to support the contention that the defendant himself did not participate in the plea and case management hearing, and that his place on the video screen was taken by an imposter – probably an actor – who entered the Manslaughter plea that the Crown required, rather than the plea that Vincent Tabak himself had intended. This indicates that he did not become aware of the nature of the “bad character evidence” until about 5th October 2011 at the earliest.
Twice during Vincent Tabak's “show” trial in October 2011, Counsel for the Prosecution made applications to the judge to present the evidence that the defendant’s viewing of adult pornography had precipitated his attack on Joanna – probably on 5th and 19th October 2011, but the dates of these attempts were themselves subject to a permanent reporting restriction. The jury was sent out. Both applications were rejected.
|The Old Bailey|
The IT-expert who testified in court, Lyndsey Farmery, has never been named publicly in this connection.
The Judge Mr. Justice Field accepted Counsel for the Defence’s arguments against this application, and rejected each of the applications. However, Counsel for the Defence William Clegg QC had promised the prosecution not to present any “evidence of good character”, so he never once referred to the five years that the defendant had spent getting his Ph.D, nor issued the jurors with copies of Vincent Tabak's doctoral thesis with its sympathetic, appreciative Preface, as evidence of good character. The defendant was never given any opportunity, in court nor outside, to refute the allegations published in the media that his viewing of pornography revealed him to be a strangulation fetishist and an enthusiast for violence towards women.
Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, tried to argue that the material gave Tabak motive for the killing. According to Small World News Service on 28th October 2011, which did not identify the court in which the exchanges took place, nor when they took place, he told the court: “The material was found on the defendant’s laptop at home and also in relation to two hard drives – one found at home and one found at work. They concern the defendant’s interest in porn. But in particular porn depicting violence towards women with their tops raised. There are also violent images of women being held by the neck, then being sexually abused by men. We submit that these images have a real significance and explain why the defendant held Joanna Yeates by the neck and killed her. We submit that it is the case he developed a sexual pleasure from it and that is because he viewed this material.”
|There were videos of women bound,|
held by the neck, degraded at the hands
of men, in violent scenes
|A girl “matching Jo’s description” –|
with fair hair, wearing a short-sleeved pink top
(Frame grabbed from BBC Crimewatch reconstruction)
Evidence was also raised that showed Tabak accessed an internet portal for porn, t8premium.com, on the morning of 17th December 2010 – the day he killed Jo. He also watched domination porn videos on 7th January 2011, while searching for information on the Joanna Yeates case. Examination of his computer showed that at 7.37 a.m. he was looking at that material to do with the murder investigation. Less than two minutes later he started looking at porn website Redtube.com and saw a number of different films – some involving women held by the throat. In one a female actress tells another participant to choke her.
Tabak then received a text from his girlfriend before continuing to watch the porn.
|Nigel Lickley QC|
William Clegg QC
Judge His Honour Mr Justice Field dismissed the application to have the material introduced to the trial, and rejected prosecution’s claim that it showed an intent to kill. He said: “These films show actors, acting out roles. None of the women suffer GBH. None of the women are killed. These are not snuff movies. The women did not die.”
(from Small World News Service, 28th October 2011)
Note the phraseology of some of these sentences. “A girl matching Jo’s description” obviously comes straight out of the police IT expert's notebook. “High quality titles of sex and submission” is obviously a phrase taken directly from the video producer’s promotional description. Mr. Lickley’s team have not authored these words.
Joanna’s jeans were grey, not blue. The issue of these videos allegedly viewed by Vincent Tabak is so contrived and curious, as their content is the staple stuff of the majority of internet porn, and similar videos are undoubtedly found on the majority of the computers that the police are confiscating all the time in the course of their crime detection. This implies that the police and the lawyers have tried this kind of trickery before, and that they are likely to do so again. The viewing of this kind of adult porn did not make Vincent Tabak any different from lots of other people, including lawyers and journalists. The porn videos described were first and foremost about consensual sex, with variations. Had they been videos about strangulation and car boots without sex, then they might conceivably have been relevant. But surely Joanna Yeates never said “Choke me” to Vincent Tabak? He neither raped Joanna Yeates nor had consensual sex with her, so the videos had no relevance to her killing.
If Counsel for the Prosecution wished to demonstrate that the viewing of video fiction had inspired Vincent Tabak to kill Joanna Yeates without having sex with her, then he could have pointed to the episodes of the prime-time TV series “Inspector Morse” and “Lewis” that contain many examples of killings carried out by murderers with Ph.Ds.
Material seized by the police in connection with the investigation of crime (usually under the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) must not be disclosed to a third party unless the owner has consented to the disclosure. Because the police and the lawyers showed themselves so willing to disregard this law after the trial, it can be conjectured that they had also done so much earlier on in the course of Vincent Tabak's detention. It seems probable that the police had threatened to tell his girlfriend about the porn and the prostitutes unless he confessed to the killing. When he failed to do so, it can also be conjectured that they carried out this threat to show they meant business, just prior to her first visit to him in Long Lartin Prison in February 2011, thereby also sabotaging the meeting for them both.
The unidentified police officers allegedly had also found evidence on his computer that Vincent Tabak had watched legal online porn on the morning of the day Miss Yeates was last seen alive. They did not specify its content more closely than that, but they also stated that he had watched legal online porn videos containing simulated strangulation scenes after it became known that Miss Yeates had been strangled. He may very well have watched the videos containing strangulation and car boots out of curiosity, after hearing what had happened to his neighbour. Some of the websites containing these lurid videos may even have opened automatically without any intention on Vincent Tabak's part, as it is not uncommon for the designers of all kinds of websites to earn extra money by triggering the opening of further windows promoting something else entirely.
The jury were not allowed to hear the discussion about the porn, but the journalists reporting the trial were. The venue for the 5th May 2011 hearing was changed at 24 hours’ notice to the Old Bailey in London, 300 km from Bristol, and only selected journalists and the victim's parents were tipped off. So the secondary purpose of the “bad character evidence” was the grooming of the media to divert attention from the unfairness of the “show” trial and the ban on “good character evidence”. When they were allowed to report it, even the serious media would luridly and humiliatingly describe Vincent Tabak as being an obsessive porn fan with a fascination for submission, bondage, gagging, degradation, abuse and violence against females. The media also protested at what a scandal it was that the jury had not been told. It was all very phoney and contrived, as the jury was not told about the defendant’s good character either. Nor was Lord Leveson told about the device for turning a public hearing into a closed hearing.
“Violent pornography and prostitutes: the secret life of Vincent Tabak” was the headline in The Times the day after the verdict. “Vincent Tabak was acting out a fantasy from one of the violent porn movies that he watched on his laptop computer when he strangled Joanna Yeates. That, at least, is the case the prosecution was prevented from putting to the jury,” explained its correspondent Simon de Bruxelles.
“Vincent Tabak viewed violent internet pornography depicting men holding women by the neck in the weeks after he killed his Bristol neighbour Jo Yeates” declared the BBC’s Chris Kelly after the verdict. Speaking to the BBC’s Steve Brodie on 31st October 2011, her father David Yeates said he was not sure it had contributed to Joanna Yeates’s death. “It was right the porn was not shown. My wife and I are still not certain it contributed to what happened,” he said. “There are a lot of questions not answered. We still don't know why. But we don’t feel in our hearts the porn contributed.”
“Jury was not told about violent porn on laptop” was the Bristol Evening Post’s headline on 29th October 2011. “Vincent Tabak had a secret fetish for strangulation porn that showed women being held by the throat and assaulted by men. Films portraying blonde women being throttled during sex or tied up and bundled into car boots were found on his laptop computer and were planned as a trump card for the prosecution during his murder trial.”
As Miss Yeates had not been raped, and sex was therefore not the motive for her killing, one of the reasons why the police and the lawyers decided to sensationalize the unfounded allegations that Vincent Tabak viewed adult porn must have been to persuade the media and the public that it had been a sex crime, in obvious contradiction to the evidence presented in the same court. Unidentified police officers also pursued this line after the trial by alleging that they would be looking into Vincent Tabak's possible connection with “other sex crimes” - as if the murder of Joanna Yeates had also been a sex crime. Was this intended to distract the attention of the general public from the absence of a motive?
Unlike the general public, Buro Happold’s lawyers would have been well aware that the absence of any sworn witness testimony from either a police officer rendered these allegations of “bad character” illusory. A statement from the firm explaining that Mr. Lickley’s shocking allegations had been made under the protection of the court and that neither Vincent Tabak nor any of their other hard-working consultants had the time nor the inclination to watch pornographic videos would undoubtedly have received prominent coverage in the news media. The firm’s silence suggests that the allegations were intended to absolve the global consultancy from a share of the responsiblity for having head-hunted an architect-strangler to England. Buro Happold may have collaborated with the police in devising the strategy involving allegations of “bad character” linked to the absence of any testimony to their own employee’s good character.
Three days after the trial ended, several news media carried an unattributed report that an unidentified internet blogger from Gloucestershire was allegedly arrested on a charge of contempt of court for tweeting details of a discussion between counsel about the pornographic videos. He was understood to have claimed that his information came not from the court but from a police source. The charge was subsequently dropped, allegedly because the British blogger was found not to be a journalist, and he was said to have undertaken to remove the material straightaway. The tweeting allegedly took place during the trial. This blogger story may have been a fabrication, since all tweeting by accredited journalists was forbidden for this discussion, and members of the public were forbidden to tweet at all, so the court usher would have seen him and stopped him immediately if he had tweeted from the courtroom. None of the news media, furthermore, carried the name of the source for the report itself, nor the date on which the tweeting was alleged to have taken place. None of the journalists quoted from the illegal tweets, nor even appeared to have seen them. Nevertheless, some members of the public evidently did learn about the allegation about the videos before the verdict was given, and these could have included jury members.
Apart from a handful of apologists, such as solicitor Andrew Gregg (BBC, 29th October 2011) and Robert Buckland MP (BBC, 31st October 2011), who have publicly defended (and covered up) the way the court handled the “bad character evidence”, the media have been characterized by a total absence of commentary in the wake of the trial. There was plenty of discussion on the internet, but this was systematically sabotaged by surprisingly well-informed trolls, and the most popular forum was shut down abruptly on 23rd April 2012. The failure of even Lord Leveson to question the trial by the media’s use of the “bad character evidence” is particularly significant. It is an example of Sherlock Holmes’s curious case of the dog that did not bark in the night.
Why did the judge Mr. Justice Field deliberately allow and encourage this "show" trial by media?
child abuse porn images had been found on Vincent Tabak’s computer. Eventually, in March 2014 Vincent Tabak was tried at Bristol Crown Court before Judge Neil Ford and convicted for the possession of these pictures. Once again, the reports of this prosecution in the news media made no mention of any witness testifying to the alleged connection between the defendant, the actual Dell laptop computer that had been confiscated from him at the time of his arrest for murdering joanna Yeates, and the images. This means that the judge convicted the prisoner on the basis of hearsay, even if he himself had viewed the images produced by the prosecutor to satisfy himself that they were illegal.
If illegal images really were found on Vincent Tabak’s Dell laptop computer, then it is obvious that an application by the prosecutor to produce these as evidence of the defendant’s bad character at his murder trial would have been immediately successful. Why then did the prosecutor waste time and effort on the applications which he could have anticipated the judge would reject to tell the jury about the alleged legal adult pornographic videos and visits to prostitutes? There can be only one possible explanation, namely, that neither the illegal child abuse images, nor the adult porn, were ever found on Dr. Tabak’s computers or hard discs at all – and that they were just deceits to destroy the reputation of a man of good character, perpetrated by lawyers enjoying protection from prosecution for slander by the immunity with which the court provided them.