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 preliminary hearings

It is a cardinal rule of British justice that a trial should take place in open Court

– The Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Bucknill, 1953

Bristol Magistrates Court
Prior to his trial, Dr. Tabak (or someone resembling him) appeared at no fewer than five out of six preliminary public hearings of various kinds – two of them by videolink.
  1. The Magistrate’s bench
  2. The bail hearing
  3. The timetable hearing – by videolink
  4. The plea and case management hearing – by videolink
  5. [A defence hearing, at which the defendant did not appear]
  6. The pre-trial hearing
Each of them resembled an everyday transaction in a post office instead of a major event in the life of a man accused of murder. Vincent Tabak was not asked how he pleaded at his first three preliminary appearances in court. His solicitor for these hearings, Crossman of Radstock, did not ensure that he pleaded Not Guilty, nor was he asked how he pleaded.

Joanna Yeates
Not until the trial nine months later did the general public learn that, while in police custody, he had denied having anything to do with Joanna Yeates’s death, so the absence of a plea before the magistrate and before the judge made the general public presume him to be guilty.

It is very suggestive that a highly intelligent man who had successfully defended his own doctoral thesis in public never said a single word to defend himself against a charge of murder. Why did he not ask his accusers what motive a man with his education could possibly have for murdering a stranger whom he did not know? Even the stupidest man would have said, “I didn’t do it, m’lud”. It demonstrates that his defence team were not on his side and that this “guest” in our country was very vulnerable and utterly terrified by the situation in which he found himself.

Vincent Tabak
defemding his
doctoral thesis
None of Vincent Tabak’s family was in the public gallery at any of the preliminary hearings, nor was his girlfriend Tanja Morson. None of the journalists made any comments about her absence. Was his appearance by video-link intended to discourage his family from travelling from the Netherlands to be in court, to discourage his friends from attending court, and to prevent him from making legitimate visual contact with them?

Vincent Tabak became a suspect on 31st December 2010 (though he was evidently not notified of this formally, nor cautioned), but he was not arrested until dawn on 20th January 2011. The choice of a Thursday for his arrest gave the police two extra days to hold him in their custody, because Monday was the earliest day he could be brought before a Magistrate.

Hearing before the Magistrate’s bench

Just before 10.00 a.m. on the morning of 24th January 2011, a Dutch interpreter entered the largest room in Bristol Magistrates Court, Court One, and took the oath. As the defendant was articulate and fluent in English (and in German, for that matter), her role was purely theatrical – namely, to reinforce the illusion that he was an uncouth foreigner. Her identity has not been published, but artistsʼ impressions show someone strongly resembling an expert witness who would testify at the trial, Lyndsey Farmery.

Vincent Tabak in
custody wearing
borrowed glasses
Crown Prosecutor Ann Reddrop,
Head of the Complex Casework Unit.
The CPS defines a “complex case” as one with
multiple victims and multiple defendants.
At 10.00 a.m., a bedraggled and unkempt Vincent Tabak appeared with five days’ growth of stubble as “Case No. 27” before the Magistrate William Summers, and was charged by Ann Reddrop of the Crown Prosecution Service with the murder of Joanna Yeates between 16th and 26th December 2010. He said nothing except to acknowledge his name and age.

The Bristol magistrate told the defendant to stand up again, and then said: “This matter has to go to the Crown Court, and you will appear in the Crown Court tomorrow, where a bail application can be put.” With a total disregard for the limits of his authority to set a timetable for a higher court, he read out to the court the timetable that Ann Reddrop had given him. “There will be a preliminary hearing on 31st January 2011, and there will be a plea and case management hearing on 29th April 2011. The case papers must be served on the defence by 15th March 2010 at the latest.”

The hearing was a pure formality and lasted just four minutes. As the prisoner was led away in handcuffs, he glanced briefly at the approximately forty-four people in the public gallery, of whom only four, according to The Guardian’s Steven Morris, were not journalists.

The interpreter also left, collecting her fee and travel expenses. By the time their role in the prosecution of the trilingual engineer Vincent Tabak was complete, Avon & Somerset Constabulary would disburse £3468 in interpreter fees and expenses. Was an interpreter present at Vincent Tabak's interviews at Schiphol and at the police station after his arrest? Was material on his laptop computer analyzed by a Dutch interpreter?

The magistrate failed to perform his most fundamental function – of asking the prisoner whether he had committed the crime. He did not ask to have the case against the accused and the evidence for it explained to him. Nor did he take any steps to have the defendant’s allegations of corruption by LGC Forensics investigated.

Daily Mail journalist Paul Harris
Among the intensely curious journalists, Paul Harris of The Mail was evidently disappointed at the apparent ordinariness of this exceptionally intelligent and talented young man’s appearance. It did not occur to any of them (except The Telegraph’s Neil Tweedie) that for a suspected murderer he was exceptionally highly educated. None of them speculated about the treatment from the police under interrogation that his appearance might have revealed.

Paul Cook
Had his first barrister, Paul Cook of Albion Chambers, taken the trouble to get his client smartened up, and to furnish him with a sympathetic prepared statement calculated to attract a modicum of sympathy from the press, it might have served him later during this horrible year. Mr. Cook stated that bail would be applied for, but, unaccountably, he would change his mind the following day.

Paul Vermeij
The Tabak family’s spokesman, Paul Vermeij, stated that Vincent was angry that police had taken away his glasses for forensic tests. He had been given a replacement pair, but he said that they were of poor quality and that he was unable to see who was speaking to him at the hearing. “He was taken to court as an almost blind man,” he added. Mr. Cook had not protested about the glasses, though it is possible that the duty solicitor from Crossman of Radstock had already done so in vain.

Bristol Prison, Horfield
According to Alun Palmer in The Mirror, 26th January 2011, Tabak, from Eindhoven, was too terrified to leave his cell on his first night in prison, after his court appearance on Monday. He was segregated from Bristol prison’s main population for his own safety. A prison source said: “All the other inmates knew he was here soon after he arrived from court because they were watching television.” Was this the result of the failure of the Magistrate William Summers to ask him for his plea, and of his solicitor to advise him to plead Not Guilty? Was Vincent Tabak being punished for the assertions made to the media by his sister Dr. Cora Tabak and brother Marcel Tabak that he was being made a scapegoat by panic-stricken police?

The bail hearing

Mr. Justice Treacy
Looking drawn and tired, Vincent Tabak appeared meekly the following day, 25th January 2011, before Mr Justice Treacy, 61, at a bail hearing at Bristol Crown Court. Although he had by then been allowed to shave, Vincent Tabak was still scruffy and unkempt. His sleeves were rolled up and his hands were handcuffed behind his back when he was brought into court. Nevertheless, he was clutching a scrap of paper in one hand. Despite having no history of violence nor any record of any convictions whatsoever, this mild and gentle engineer was also chained to a security officer. He was still wearing borrowed glasses. He was again not encouraged to protest his innocence, ask what conceivable motive the Crown Prosecution Service could think a young engineer such as himself had for killing Joanna Yeates, nor say anything else that might have helped his subsequent image in the media. The CPS’s Ann Reddrop asked Mr Justice Treacy to keep Vincent Tabak in custody. But she added: “In fairness to the defendant, I should point out he is a man of good character in this country and, as I understand it, in Holland.” (John Coles, The Sun, 26th January 2011.) Ann Reddrop’s admission means only that he had not been charged with any offences before. It also reflected the knowledge (Bristol Post, 31st October 2011) that police had checked for Vincent Tabak’s previous convictions abroad, but found not so much as a parking ticket.

Christopher Jefferies
Tanja Morson
Ann Reddrop expressed her grounds for opposing bail cryptically, to avoid revealing any details of the CPS’s case against the defendant to the media and the public from. “Failing to surrender” can refer only to the police’s allegations that DNA evidence showed it was Vincent Tabak who had dumped Joanna’s body. “Interfering with the course of justice” refers to the telephone call to the police from Holland made by his girlfriend Tanja Morson but instigated by Vincent Tabak, reporting that the landlord Christopher Jefferies had moved his car on the evening Joanna had last been at the Bristol Ram. The CPS would allege that this telephone call was an attempt to incriminate the landlord falsely.

The press were not told that
detectives from Bristol had
been sent to Holland 
So what happened between the hearing before the Magistrate and the hearing before the judge that caused Crossman Solicitors and Paul Cook to change their minds about bail? It was almost certainly only now that the lawyers were told about the allegation of their client’s interfering with the course of justice by seeking to incriminate the landlord in the statement he gave at Schiphol. This suggests that the CPS had been party to the police’s decision not to tell the news media that detectives from Bristol had been sent to Holland at the time, even though telling the public would have helped dispel the notion that the Avon & Somerset Constabulary didn’t seem to be trying very hard to find Joanna’s killer. It may also have been the CPS who planted the story of the sobbing girl whose anonymous tip-off the public believed had provided the grounds for arresting Vincent Tabak, tricking the duty solicitor into missing the significance of the Schiphol interview and DNA swab. Did Ann Reddrop put pressure on Paul Cook immediately after the hearing before the Magistrate’s bench, to try to persuade him to get his client to plead guilty and stand trial for murder, in return for a secret amnesty and a new identity?

Why did the judge fail to perform his most fundamental function – of asking the prisoner whether he had committed the crime? Considering the night of terror his client had just spent in Bristol Prison, why did Vincent Tabak’s first barrister, Paul Cook, make no application for bail? It must have been clear to both the magistrate and the judge that the evidence fell far short of what would have been necessary to support a charge of murder unless a confession were obtained, but Vincent Tabak nevertheless continued to be held in custody. Was his barrister under orders to turn the accused person into a model prisoner who would do whatever he was told to do without question, including sign a confession?

Paul Vermeij, the spokesman for the Tabak family, said: “Vincent seems to be coping with what has happened to him. He has remained positive about it. He told her [his girlfriend] ‘I am safe, I am positive’. He is confident there will be a good outcome to this. He says the prison staff are treating him well. His girlfriend and his family have received many letters of support from friends and she told him about them.” (The Mirror, 27th January 2011)

The timetable hearing

Michael Fitton QC
A week later, on Monday, 31st January 2011, Vincent Tabak appeared again before Mr Justice Treacy, this time via video link from Long Lartin Prison, for a preliminary hearing at Bristol Crown Court. The purpose of this hearing was to agree on a timetable for the case. He looked concentrated and apprehensive. A video link may be suitable for protecting a vulnerable witness, but an accused prisoner has a fundamental habeas corpus right to appear in court personally. Furthermore it is not possible for a judge and an accused person to make eye contact when a video link is used. The accused cannot see who is in court, nor make legitimate visual contact with family members, friends and supporters in the public gallery.

Long Lartin Prison
This time the defendant was represented by a colleague of his first QC from Albion Chambers, head of the chambers Michael Fitton. Why did he not serve a writ of habeas corpus? Why did the judge fail to insist on the prisoner’s rights or the obligations of the prosecution to habeas corpus? Mr. Justice Treacy told Vincent Tabak that he would have the opportunity to speak to his lawyer later in the week (i.e., 3rd to 4th February 2011 – after the first of his conversations with the so-called prison chaplain). The judge’s remark suggests that the prosecution was controlling the prisoner’s access to a lawyer.

The so-called chaplain, Peter Brotherton, who responed
to Vincent Tabaks requests for counselling after he had
been incarcerated in Long Lartin, but who was also a
senior officer from a Cambridgeshire prison, Whitemoor
Had Vincent Tabak been so badly maltreated in prison that a personal court appearance would reveal his injuries? He was still wearing a pair of “borrowed” glasses. Had his own glasses been broken as a result of some violent incident at the police station or in prison? It was reported that they had been sent for forensic testing, but the traces of Joanna Yeates’s blood and sweat that would have been expected if he had strangled her were not found on his glasses.

Nigel Lickley QC
This hearing marked the first appearance in the case of the Counsel for the Prosecution, Nigel Lickley QC, who presented his provisional timetable to the judge, who “pencilled in” a date in October for the trial. Once again Vincent Tabak made no plea nor said anything that might have helped the media to regard him as a human being instead of as a killer. Once again, the case against him was not explained to the judge. Vincent Tabak tightly clenched his hands together in front of him as the prosecutor spoke, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He was already a model prisoner. Why did the judge once again fail to perform his most fundamental function - of asking the prisoner whether he had committed the crime?

None of Vincent Tabak’s family was present in court, even though they had previously stated that they intended to fly over for this hearing. This is presumably because neither they nor his girlfriend had received permission to visit him in prison. This was probably the response of the Crown Prosecution Service South West to the demand for an independent post-mortem of the victim’s body, which delayed her funeral.

At some stage of his custody, between 31st January 2011 and 5th May 2011, another defence team from a different chambers in Bristol, Kelcey & Hall, took over. The reason for this change was not made public, but it can be inferred that it was because: (1) Vincent Tabak himself was dissatisfied with the lawyers who had twice failed to apply for bail on his behalf, (2) His main object in consulting the prison chaplain was probably to receive advice on the choice of a better lawyer, (3) The chaplain may have been briefed to recommend Kelcey & Hall, who had been “groomed” by the police and the CPS, and (4) the QC instructed by Kelcey & Hall, William Clegg, would not be in a position to recognise an imposter on the video screen at the forthcoming plea hearing.

“Bad character evidence”
After Vincent Tabak was arrested, a collection of fully legal commercial pornographic videos and evidence of his viewing of legal online porn were allegedly found on his computer. Evidence of wholly legal contacts to prostitutes during business trips to Yorkshire and California was allegedly found in his telephone record. The prosecution would have submitted this alleged “bad character evidence” to the defence, as required by CPS rules and as directed by Mr. Justice Treacy, together with the other case papers, on or before 1st April 2011, prior to the plea and case management hearing scheduled to be held on 4th May 2011. One of the objects of this hearing would be to enable the judge Mr Justice Field to resolve any dispute between the defence and the prosecution about the admissibility of any of the evidence.

Illegal images of child abuse were also subsequently alleged to have been found on Vincent Tabak’s Dell laptop computer, but no application was ever made to submit these to the jury at his murder trial as evidence of his “bad character”, even though it is obvious that the judge would not have rejected the application.

As no witnesses were ever named in connection with the collection of the evidence of visits to prostitutes nor the viewing of adult porn and the keeping of child abuse images, as it can be inferred that the rejection of those items applied for as admissible evidence and the omission from this application of the much more damaging child abuse images had been pre-arranged between the lawyers, it can also be inferred that all of this so-called “evidence” was an invention fabricated by the police and the lawyers.

The plea and case-management hearing

Mr. Justice Field
Thursday 5 May 2011. 10am. In the plea and case-management hearing at the Old Bailey in London, a person resembling Vincent Tabak appeared by video link, allegedly from Long Lartin Prison, before Mr. Justice Field, 64, the Judge who would eventually try him in Bristol, but who had never set eyes on him before. The original venue and date, Bristol Crown court on 4th May 2011, was changed at short notice, but the change was notified to the press, so anyone else who wished to be in court missed this hearing. Joanna Yeates’s parents, however, had been tipped off, and had travelled to London to be in court for the occasion. None of the defendant’s family or friends was in court. The judge did not ask the defendant to identify the court in which he believed the hearing was taking place. Even this rendered the hearing and everything that took place unsound, as the judge could not know whether the person on the video screen wrongly believed that the hearing was taking place in Bristol.

The hearing was held in Court Two. According to the official visitors’ guide to the Old Bailey, Court Two is the high-security court, and terrorist trials and the like often take place here.

Hilary Douglas
This sudden change of venue and date ensured that no one was in court who knew the defendant personally, so it can be inferred that the person who was seen on the video screens and who would enter his plea was not the defendant himself but an actor (or possibly a digital animation). This may have been the main reason for the change of venue and date. Greg Reardon, who might well have been able to recognise that the face on the video screens was not his neighbour’s, was not in court. The only journalist who had ever spoken to Vincent Tabak face-to-face was The Sunday Express’s Hilary Douglas, and she was not in court. It cannot be ruled out that the real Vincent Tabak had entered a Not Guilty plea in a hearing held on the scheduled date (4th May 2011) at Bristol Crown court, without any members of the press or public present.

Another reason for this sudden change of venue was probably to prevent any interested members of the general public except accredited journalists and the victim’s parents from hearing about the adult pornographic videos and the prostitutes. The discussions on whether to accept this so-called “bad character evidence” should have been resolved at this hearing, but we are not allowed to know whether they were or not, because the judge imposed reporting restrictions. The restrictions on reporting the discussions themselves were subsequently removed after the end of the trial, on 28th October 2011, but the actual date and venue of the discussions and of the imposition of the restrictions themselves was subject to permanent reporting restriction. This hearing was in effect a legally-enforced off-the-record briefing.

The Old Bailey
No presentation nor discussion of any other evidence against the accused was reported at this hearing. Any discussion of the so-called “bad character evidence” was subject to reporting restrictions that were subsequently lifted at the end of the trial. The other evidence in support of the charge was either not presented at the hearing at all, or was subject to a temporary reporting restriction that itself was subject to a permanent reporting restriction and was lifted unreported at the start of the trial. The defendant’s previous character was impeccable, especially by criminal standards, and exceptional by any standards. Albion Chambers must have produced some evidence from both the UK and the Netherlands of his good character, as this was acknowledged by Ann Reddrop of the CPS at the hearing on 25th January 2011. Nevertheless, the jury was never to hear any “good character evidence” except from Vincent Tabak himself, so the judge must have allowed the prosecution to impose an unreported agreement on the defence that no independent character evidence at all would be submitted.

Why did the judge fail to insist on the prisoner’s rights or the obligations of the prosecution to habeas corpus? Vincent Tabak was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with the Murder of Joanna Yeates between 16th and 19th December 2010. This bizarrely contradicted the finding of the inquest on 28th March 2011, that she had died on 25th December 2010, which was not reported publicly. On the other hand it revealed that the CPS suspected that she may still have been alive during that weekend, or even knew that was the case.

Asked how he pleaded to this charge, the person seen on the video screen answered Not Guilty. He was then asked for his plea to Manslaughter. His plea of Guilty to this charge evoked a gasp from the court, and was to seal the fate of Vincent Tabak. We are all accustomed to seeing actors who appear on TV screens telling us they have done things that they have not actually done: the appearance of a person purporting to be the defendant on the video screens at the Old Bailey was just such a performance.

The extent of the injuries to Joanna’s body were not disclosed to the public until the trial, so it is quite likely that the defendant was unaware of them. It would have made no sense for him to plead guilty of manslaughter if his defence team had informed him that her injuries were clear evidence of intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

It was Counsel for the Prosecution Nigel Lickley QC who applied at this hearing for his trial to be held in Winchester to minimize the influence of adverse local publicity that could affect the trial if it were held in Bristol.

William Clegg QC
Ian Kelcey
However, Counsel for Vincent Tabak’s Defence, William Clegg QC, who, catastrophically for Vincent Tabak as it would turn out, opposed this application. He asked for the trial to be held at Bristol Crown Court, and the judge upheld his opposition. This was the case’s first court appearance of Vincent Tabak’s defence barrister QC. Mr Clegg was instructed by Ian Kelcey, the immediate past Chairman of the National Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee. It was the Defence who were keen for the jurors to visit the flat where Miss Yeates had lived, so that they could visualize for themselves the fictitious scenario that they had contrived of the killing. Holding the trial in Winchester could create transport difficulties, they claimed. It was thus the Defence who wanted to throw their own client to jurors whom the Prosecution expected to be influenced by adverse local publicity.

The trial date was set for 4th October 2011.

Joanna Yeates’s parents arriving at the Old Bailey
accompanied by DC Emma Davies.
“We expected for him to plead guilty of manslaughter”
After the hearing at the Old Bailey, The Mirror, 6th May 2012, reported that Joanna’s parents revealed they had known that the guilty plea was coming. Mr. Yeates said: “What has happened today has come as no surprise to both of us. “We expected for him to plead guilty to manslaughter and that’s exactly what has happened.” But back in the Dutch village of Veghel where Vincent Tabak grew up, the admission was met with surprise. Former family spokesman Paul Vermeij said last night: “This is shocking news. I am very surprised. There was no suggestion of this at all.” Tabak’s friend Joran Jessurun, a software engineer at Eindhoven University, tweeted: “I didn’t expect that.” the accused’s sister Ilse said: “I have nothing to say.” This shows that Mr. & Mrs. Yeates had been told the plea that was going to be entered before the defendant, his family and his friends knew anything about it, reinforcing the evidence that the face on the video screen was that of an actor.

The defence hearing

The jury were likely to be taken to view Miss Yeates’s flat
Vincent Tabak was not present for a brief hearing held on 7th September 2011. According to The Bath Chronicle the following day: “At a brief hearing at Bristol Crown Court yesterday, the Buro Happold employee’s barrister, William Clegg QC, said his team would supply the court with an enhanced statement of the defence case. The statement will reveal the time of Miss Yeates’s death, the degree of force used to kill her and the circumstances in which her body was deposited on a verge at Longwood Lane, Failand... Mr Clegg also asked whether it would be possible to house his client at Bristol Prison for the trial, rather than putting him through a four-hour daily round trip back and forth from Long Lartin jail, in Worcestershire, where he is currently in custody. Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, said consideration should be given to family, media and public access for proceedings, which were likely to attract a high degree of interest. He also said the jury were likely to be taken to view Miss Yeates’s flat and the route to the spot where she was found. The Recorder of Bristol, Judge Neil Ford QC, adjourned the case for a pre-trial review on 20th September 2011, with the trial due to start on 4th October 2011.”

The pre-trial hearing

Judge Martin Picton
20th September 2011. Four security guards escorted Vincent Tabak into the dock of courtroom six at Bristol Crown Court for the pre-trial hearing - his first court appearance in person after his plea to Guilty of Manslaughter had been entered. This hearing had originally been scheduled for July. Was it deliberately held back so that the verdict in another case entirely, that of Daniel Lancaster, could be put before Vincent Tabak for his consideration? Joanna Yeates’s parents were in court. It was the first time they had seen him in court in person.

The greying 33-year-old defendant wore glasses, a white shirt, blue tie and dark suit for the 30-minute hearing before Judge Martin Picton. The Detective Chief Inspector who led the Avon and Somerset investigation, Phil Jones, sat behind the barristers and immediately in front of the defendant. Vincent Tabak, who sat hunched in the dock, spoke only once. The clerk asked him: “Are you Vincent Tabak?” He replied: Yes I am. He was charged with unlawfully killing Joanna Yeates between 16th and 19th December 2010.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones
sat in front of the defendant
Prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC told the court that the trial would include what he called a “digital presentation”, and a site visit by jurors, who would walk the part of the route that Joanna is alleged to have taken on her last Friday evening from the Hophouse pub in Clifton to 44 Canynge Road. He evidently raised 11 points with the defence team, but none of these was disputed. It may be conjectured that he proposed to remove the following “sacrificial” items from the prosecution’s case:
  • David Yeates’s statement about the state that he and his wife found the flat in.
  • Teresa Yeates’s statement about the state that she and her husband found the flat in.
  • Evidence alleging the defendant’s DNA on Joanna’s front-door.
  • Evidence alleging Joanna’s DNA on the defendant’s spectacles.
  • Evidence alleging Joanna’s DNA and blood in the defendant’s flat.
– and proposed the removal of the following items from the defence case:
The defence also agreed to accept the alleged fibre match unconditionally without allowing the jury to hear any statistics to prove that it had any forensic significance as evidence, nor the identity of the expert(s) who had analysed the fibres.

Judge Picton had been expecting to see an enhanced defence statement on 19th September 2011. He made an order for it to be submitted by Vincent Tabak’s legal team by 4 p.m. on 23rd September 2011. Not until 22nd September 2011 did Vincent Tabak sign his “enhanced” defence statement describing how he supposedly strangled Joanna Yeates by holding her neck for 20 seconds. It did not contain any motive for why he should have done this. It is quite likely that the defendant would not have signed the “enhanced statement” if his defence team had informed him that her injuries were clear evidence of intent to cause grievous bodily harm. It can be inferred that his lawyers also omitted to warn him that his conversations with the prison chaplain would be misrepresented in court as a confession. Nor would he have put off signing this statement till the last possible minute if it really had been he who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter over four months earlier.

Why did Vincent Tabak’s defence QC William Clegg not negotiate for the murder charge to be dropped in return for the admission of manslaughter? Why did the CPS persist in accusing him of murder when it must have been obvious that he had no conceivable motive for killing Joanna Yeates and that he had denied the charge completely for the first eight months of his custody? It all points to a conspiracy to frame an innocent man as a scapegoat for another person’s crime. It is not normally possible for an accused person for whom a plea of guilty to manslaughter has been entered to appeal against their subsequent conviction for murder.

To get Vincent Tabak to sign his appalling and bizarre “enhanced” statement, the lawyers must have threatened him with a stick and offered him a carrot. The stick probably consisted of a serious threat of the prosecution of his girlfriend for her part in the alleged attempt to incriminate their landlord and her alleged attempt to interfere with the course of justice as the “sobbing girl”. Not only could she face a year or more in prison herself, but she could be publicly humiliated at his own trial. He was honour bound to sign.

On the other hand, Vincent Tabak was probably offered the carrot of a sentence as ludicrously lenient as that just handed down (apparently deliberately) to the Colne strangler Daniel Lancaster. Furthermore, the acceptance by his own lawyers of a false plea would have provided the prisoner with a means to impose conditions on his captors. In return for undertaking not to expose the swindle publicly at some stage during his trial, he could have demanded an early transfer to a Dutch jail, or even a guarantee of freedom under a false identity. The total lack of media interest in how so sensational a prisoner as Vincent Tabak is faring in jail since his trial suggests that some deal of this nature did take place.

After his Manslaughter plea became known, all public support for Tabak from his friends, former fellow students and his girlfriend’s parents evaporated like dew before the morning sun. The girlfriend herself had already disappeared from public view, and Vincent Tabak’s family in Holland never gave any further interviews to the press. This is one of the most depressing and terrifying features of this entire case.