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 prisons

“Laat varen alle hoop, gij die hier binnen treedt”

– Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno 

The prisons are full of men who thought they could trust a police officer.

Vincent Tabak
in custody wearing
borrowed glasses
After the trial in October 2011, a police spokesman would read out a statement from Joanna Yeates’s parents containing the following sentence about Vincent Tabak: “The best we can hope for him is that he spends the rest of his life incarcerated, where his life is a living hell, being the recipient of all evils, deprivations and degradations that his situation can provide.” Since bail had not been applied for, this is also a description of his situation during the nine months prior to his trial when he was still supposed to be presumed innocent.

Only an Anglo-Saxon would express such sentiments as malicious and vengeful as these. An Italian or a Dane, for example, would understand perfectly well that simply serving a prison sentence is a harsh and horrible punishment in itself, going far beyond the basic need to protect society from the wrongdoer, without any additional need for confining a prisoner in degrading physical accommodation.

32-year-old Vincent Tabak had never been inside a police station before he was arrested on 20th January 2011. His first encounter with a prison came after he had appeared in a packed Bristol courtroom in Marlborough Street before magistrate William Summers on 24th January 2011. Fully aware of the case’s high public profile, the magistrate failed in his most fundamental responsibility. He did not ask Vincent Tabak how he pleaded. The public were totally unaware that the prisoner had answered “No comment” to most of the eighty or so questions about Joanna Yeates that the police had put to him during his interrogation. Consequently everyone assumed that he was guilty.

Crown Prosecutor
Ann Reddrop
Crown Prosecutor Ann Reddrop knew very well that “he is a man of good character in this country and, as I understand it, in Holland.” She must be assumed to have engineered what followed, by way of punishment for remarks reported in public made by the prisoner’s elder brother Marcel Tabak and elder sister Dr. Cora Tabak in the Netherlands. They had criticized the Bristol police (and by implication the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset, Colin Port) for panicking and making a scapegoat of their brother.

Bristol prison, Horfield
He was now held overnight in Bristol prison in Horfield. This prison holds adult male prisoners on remand to the local courts as well as convicted prisoners, including prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment and indeterminate sentences for public protection. It also acts as a Category B facility for the southwest of England. It has accommodation for 614 inmates. It does not contain any of the most violent “Category A” prisoners. Nevertheless he was too terrified to leave his cell on his first night in prison, reported Alun Palmer in The Mirror (26th January 2011). He was segregated from Bristol prison’s main population “for his own safety”. An unattributed prison source reportedly said: “All the other inmates knew he was here soon after he arrived from court because they were watching television.”

Gloucester prison
On 25th January 2011 Vincent Tabak, looking drawn and tired, appeared meekly before Mr Justice Treacy, 61, at a bail hearing at Bristol Crown Court. Like the magistrate the day before, the judge neglected to put the obligatory question to the prisoner – “Did you kill Joanna Yeates?”. He too bears a responsibility for the subsequent isolation of the accused man and his suicidal inclination. Vincent Tabak was then moved to Gloucester prison (a category B adult local prison and young offender remand centre, capacity 323), 30 miles up the road from where he was being held in Bristol. An unattributed source allegedly told The Sun (26th January 2011): “It was decided to move him for his own good. There are a lot of local people in Bristol Prison and he could have been at risk because feelings locally are running high.”

Tabak family spokesman Paul Vermeij
In the Netherlands, Marcel and Cora Tabak responded to the way their gentle and courteous younger brother was being shuttled around by appointing a professional spokesman, Paul Vermeij. Explaining that Vincent had talked on 26th January 2011 to his girlfriend, Tanja Morson, he issued a statement: “Vincent seems to be coping with what has happened to him. He has remained positive about it. He told her ‘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)

Long Lartin prison, Worcestershire
The following day, Vincent Tabak was in Long Lartin Prison, near Evesham, Worcestershire. As its name implies, it is mainly for prisoners serving very long sentences. It is even further away from Bristol than Gloucester is, and has a high concentration of “category A” inmates, i.e, the most dangerous criminals, including those serving life. It has a capacity of 622 minimum sentence four years category A and B prisoners, including category A remand prisoners. It is not normally used for remand prisoners unless these are exceptionally violent.

According to The Sun on 27th January 2011, Vincent Tabak was placed on suicide watch around the clock. Staff at the top-security prison had been told to check the 32-year-old every 30 minutes throughout the day and night. The newspaper claimed that an ‘insider’, whom it did not name, had told its reporter: “He has been placed under constant observation by the assessment care in custody team. He’ll be escorted wherever he goes by two staff. Specialist psychiatrists will also be closely monitoring him.”

Crime Correspondent Jerry Lawton
According to Jerry Lawton, Chief Crime Correspondent of The Daily Star (31st October 2011): “His cell in the healthcare unit at maximum security Long Lartin Prison, Worcs, has a clear Perspex door so he has no privacy... If he is ordered to remain in Long Lartin, he faces being housed in the jail’s Supermax segregation wing to protect him from possible vigilante attacks.”

After he was taken into custody on 20th January 2011, Vincent Tabak was probably prevented from reading what the newspapers were writing about him, nor allowed to see how TV journalists were reporting his case, until February 2011, when their interest in him had subsided temporarily.

Omroep Brabant, Published: Monday, 31st January, 2011 – 00:46. Author: Nick Renders.
Brother to Vincent T.: “He feels lonely”
VEGHEL – Marcel, the brother of murder suspect Vincent T., says that his brother feels lonely in prison. Vincent told him this during a phone call. A few days ago, Marcel had his last telephone contact with his brother. “He’s in prison, and he feels safe, but lonely. This is just a terrible feeling.”

Judge Colman Treacy
Vincent Tabak appeared via video-link from Long Lartin for his case management hearing before Mr. Justice Treacy on 31st January 2011.

The subsequent plea hearing was also held by video-link, this time before Mr. Justice Field, on 5th May 2011, but in this case the plea was almost certainly entered by an imposter pretending to be at Long Lartin. It is not possible for the prisoner to make eye contact with the judge when using a video-link – even if you have your own glasses. Vincent Tabak’s glasses had been taken away, allegedly for forensic testing, so he had to make do with cheap plastic ones.

Girlfriend Tanja Morson
Why was mild-mannered Vincent Tabak punished by being incarcarated as the only non-violent remand prisoner in a special prison far from Bristol, apparently in solitary confinement, without regular visits from his partner, friends and family, as long as he was still presumed innocent and had no previous history of violence? UK prison rules entitle a remand prisoner to three visits per week of 60 minutes’ duration, but (according to John Coles writing in The Sun, 14th February 2011) he was not allowed any visits at all until three weeks after his arrest, when his girlfriend from Bristol, and his brother and a family friend from the Netherlands, were allowed to visit him at Long Lartin for the first time. The general public’s only concern should have been that he was kept away from blonde women whom he did not know and might suddenly strangle. As long as he had not admitted to doing anything illegal, then depriving him of social and sexual contact can be interpreted only as a form of custodial intimidation with a view to extracting a confession. Isolation is a form of torture.

Although no specific evidence has been made public to this effect, it is very probable that the conversations Vincent Tabak had with his girlfriend and family members during their visits were tape recorded without their knowledge, and the recordings handed over to the police and the CPS. The prisoner and his visitors would have been far too emotional and preoccupied even to think about this possibility. His phone calls, letters and e-mails would certainly have been subject to surveillance as well. Whether he was able to develop and implement an encryption strategy for communicating with his supporters outside remains a matter for conjecture.

The Governor of Long Lartin, Simon Cartwright, was no stranger to torture. The Detainee Unit in his prison is used to accommodate aliens held without charge or trial under anti-terror legislation. These include persons awaiting deportation from the UK to countries where they risk being subjected to torture, and persons apprehended in the UK as a result of information obtained under torture in countries where torture is sanctioned.

Chief Constable
Colin Port
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the reason why bail was opposed successfully by Ann Reddrop, Head of the South-West’s CPS Complex Case Unit, was precisely so as to make it possible to subject Vincent Tabak to intimidation and blackmail under prison conditions. The implications of this conclusion for the range of implicated public officials and independent lawyers who apparently have betrayed their positions of trust to protect the real killer and put an innocent man behind bars are not edifying. These include Avon & Somerset’s Chief Constable Colin Port, magistrate William Summers, judge Mr Justice Treacy, and solicitor Ian Kelcey of Kelcey & Hall. Vincent Tabak’s first solicitor, from Crossman & Co of Radstock, failed twice to apply for bail, because she was twice confronted with sudden unforeseen aggravations to the case that the CPS was alleging against her client.

The so-called chaplain at Long Lartin,
Peter Brotherton. He did not tell the court that
he was a senior officer at a Cambridgeshire
prison, Whitemoor.
Just before Vincent Tabak arrived at Long Lartin, a Salvation Army prison visitor, Peter Brotherton was set up as chaplain there, with the consent of the Governor. Desparate for advice about how to deal with his situation and how to find a more effective solicitor than the one from Crossman & Co, Vincent Tabak applied for counselling from Peter Brotherton. It was probably the chaplain who had also been specially briefed to recommend the Bristol law firm of Kelcey & Hall, solicitors, to this particular prisoner. Peter Brotherton tricked Vincent Tabak into making a succession of remarks that could be used to deceive the jury into believing had made a confession that can be shown to have been no such thing.

Counsel for the Defence
William Clegg QC
Instructing solicitor
Ian Kelcey
To protect himself against the risk of being charged with perjury, the chaplain must either have noted down carefully his conversations with the prisoner in February 2011, or, more probably, ensured that they were being recorded. The conspicuous discrepancies in continuity in the account of these conversations that the chaplain gave in the witness box reveal how someone had “boiler-plated” selected sentences together to make it sound in court as if the prisoner had been admitting to killing the victim. It was Mr Clegg who would tell the court that the chaplain had written down a statement about the conversations, signed it himself, and passed it on to the prosecution. The chaplain did not himself testify to the existence of this document, but thanks to the power of suggestion, everyone would believe that he had done so, thanks to the manipulative cross-examination by Counsel for the Defence William Clegg QC. Mr. Clegg’s instructing solicitor was Ian Kelcey.

“The young lady from Bristol”
– as the prison chaplain called
Joanna Yeates
At the time of his conversations with the Salvation Army chaplain, Peter Brotherton, Vincent Tabak was in the health unit, allegedly because he was on “suicide watch”. Why would the prison authorities fear he might try to kill himself, unless it was because they knew that he was innocent but that he had realised that his defence team were not on his side? Or was he in the health unit because he was being subjected to, or threatened with, physical abuse from other inmates or to medicinal methods intended to extract his “confession”?

According to the Government’s “Strategic Plan for Criminal Justice 2004-08” presented to parliament in July 2004, “Too many offenders insist on the full judicial process, then plead guilty at the last minute, clogging up the courts when we should be encouraging them to plead guilty earlier.” (quoted in Sandra Lean’s book No Smoke!.) So instead of being presumed innocent, a suspect like Vincent Tabak, who had denied the charge against him, should be “encouraged” to confess.

Joanna Yeates’s parents were tipped off
about the changes in the date and venue of the plea hearing
(frame captured from Channel 4 news video)
The encouragement came with his plea hearing, which judge Colman Treacy had planned would take place on 4th May 2011 at Bristol Crown Court. However, as far as is known, no such hearing took place. Instead, selected journalists and Joanna Yeates’s parents were tipped off that it would take place the next day over 100 miles away at the Old Bailey in London, before a different judge and with a different defence QC. There was no one in court who knew Vincent Tabak or could guarantee that the person seen on the video screens was the defendant.

It is hardly likely that Vincent Tabak had found life in Long Lartin Prison so congenial that he had decided that he preferred it to life outside. He knew very well that the new evidence that had been presented in the murder charge against him was unsound. So the most probable explanation for why the person on the screen pleaded guilty of manslaughter is that he was an actor who was impersonating Vincent Tabak. The sign saying “Long Lartin” seen on the wall behind him could have been put up anywhere. The astonishment of the Tabak family’s representative, Paul Vermeij, on learning of the guilty plea from the news media, reinforces the conclusion that Vincent Tabak himself had no intention of pleading guilty to anything.

Vincent Tabak did not actually sign a “confession” until the last possible minute, when he signed his “enhanced” statement on 22nd September 2011. This was not the action of a man who had already acknowledged killing Joanna. On the contrary, he realised that he was being held hostage by his own lawyers, and his only chance would lie in an appeal to the commonsense of the jury.

To understand how this shy young Dutch engineering specialist must have felt, you should imagine yourself confined in an Italian or a Russian prison, charged with a murder you had not committed, by officials whose respect for the law and your human rights you become less and less able to trust. Anyone who has lived in a foreign country is aware that, no matter how proficient you are in the language, you have a need for regular social contact with people who speak your mother tongue and share your own cultural centricity. Vincent Tabak’s command of English is so good that he did not need his interpreter in court, but not having any educated people in prison to speak Dutch to from time to time must have been a severe psychological burden to him and made him very lonely while he was under pressure to “confess”.

While he was being held captive in Long Lartin Prison, Vincent Tabak shows signs of “Stockholm syndrome”, which caused him to develop empathy for, and dependancy on, his lawyer. There was no one else who could help him, and eventually he proved willing to do whatever his lawyer told him to do.

The Detective Constable who had travelled to Holland,
Karen Thomas
Vincent Tabak was also very vulnerable because of his lack of family or friends of long standing in the UK. The Detective Constable who had travelled to Holland to interview him testified, rather offensively, in court how his girlfriend and his sister had “fussed” over him – revealing just how susceptible his personality would be to blackmail and intimidation in the hostile isolation of prison. While he was at the police station, he had been permitted to make international telephone calls to his family in the Netherlands. As long as he was held in Home Office prisons, however, he would have been allowed to make only inland telephone calls, and his girlfriend Tanja Morson was the only person close enough to him to act for him in the UK and communicate with his family. The Police Liaison Service were probably working to alienate her from him, however, by alleging that he had been unfaithful to her with prostitutes – and there are signs that they succeeded in doing so by about 4th March 2011, when Christopher Jefferies was released from bail. How can a professional person in this day and age manage their affairs without access to e-mail and internet, and without regular contact with people close to him? How could Vincent Tabak prepare his defence in such circumstances?

How could this shy Dutchman maintain his sanity, let alone plan for his trial, when he was daily confronted by the society of psychopaths, drug addicts, hostile hardened criminals who considered him “posh”, and Islamic terror suspects being held without trial? Prisons are full of people – inmates and guards – but he would look in vain for a friendly, European face among any of those with whom he was permitted contact. He’s not an experienced criminal. He would lack street credentials that are required to be respected in prison and the lack of which can put someone in a vulnerable position. How could he look his accusers in the eye when his own customized glasses had been taken away from him and replaced by standard prison issue with plastic lenses to prevent him from committing suicide? Journalist Adrian Hearn noted that he was wearing borrowed glasses during his earlier preliminary hearings. Very early on in his imprisonment, his hair had started to turn grey.

The most important thing about being a prisoner is not the hardness or the cushiness of the cell, but the difference from life outside. A model citizen is daily confronted with decisions and has great freedom to take them. Vincent Tabak had been a model citizen when judged by all normal standards. A model prisoner, on the other hand, never takes any decisions but always does exactly what he or she is told. A model prisoner does not question the jailer’s orders. It must take some time to adjust your way of thinking and behaving to adapt to this enormous difference in environment. However, an intelligent person would quickly work out that kicking and screaming do not pay, and would soon condition himself to do everything he is told. The model prisoner who has spent some weeks or months in prison is therefore automatically the ideal candidate for someone who tells him to plead guilty to manslaughter. He does not need to think about it. He has conditioned himself to do exactly what he is told. We saw this in Vincent Tabak at each of the six preliminary hearings, and in the goldfish tank at his trial. He did exactly what he had been told. You cannot compare the behaviour of a person who has taught himself to behave like a slave with the behaviour of someone who is used to freedom.

Among the other types of inmate of high social and intellectual status whom Vincent Tabak might have encountered in Long Lartin Prison are: war criminals, terrorists, Islamic terror suspects, violent newspaper columnists, and animal rights activists. In the absence of other social contacts, it is likely that he would have favoured their company, and they his. As a new boy on the block with no experience of the world’s harsher realities, he would have been very susceptible to the advice of such inmates. This in turn could have been exploited by the prison authorities and volunteers to choose whom he could mix with and bribe other inmates with favours.

Joanna Yeates’s family at Longwood Lane
on 27th December 2010 – Chris, David and Teresa.
The fourth person is Detective Constable Emma Davies.
After Vincent Tabak was sentenced, a police spokesman read out a statement on behalf of the Yeates family, containing the following text: “The best we can hope for him is that he spends the rest of his life incarcerated, where his life is a living hell, being the recipient of all the evils, deprivations and degradations that his situation can provide.” Was the purpose of the police’s unattributed and obviously false allegation about illegal “Group 4” images of child abuse found on his computer deceitfully and manipulatively directed by Avon & Somerset Constabulary’s Director of Corporate Communications Amanda Hirst at the inmates of the prison where Vincent Tabak would be serving his sentence? Was the media acting as a pseudo-judicial agency to instigate those inmates to carry out the Yeates family’s wishes?

HM Prison, Wakefield
The only information (Bristol Post, 15th January 2014) about where Vincent Tabak has been held since his trial is that it is at HM Prison, Wakefield. Although nothing has ever been made public about this, there is no technical reason why people flow analyst Vincent Tabak should not have continued to work for his employer Buro Happold from his prison cell. All he would need is a computer and a secure internet link to the company’s data bases. A Skype connection for taking part in technical face-to-face discussions with colleagues and clients would also be advantageous. However, it is most probable that the outside world has been told to forget about Vincent Tabak, and that his prison has become the equivalent of a black hole, preventing any contact between him and the normal world. By a great effort of will he may be able to maintain his identity and conviction that the outside world will remember him for a year or two, but eventually he will come up against a wall and that will be the end of him. The forces of evil will have triumphed.

In 2014, the government Minister with responsibility for prisons, Chris Grayling MP, added to Vincent Tabak’s deprivations by introducing a rule that forbids prisoners from receiving books from their family and friends outside. His excuse is that prisoners can still borrow books from the prison library – without stopping to consider whether these contain books in Dutch and books likely to satisfy the needs of a highly educated engineer. In 1535, King Henry VIII had the governor of the Tower of London impose a similar deprivation on the learned and saintly Thomas More during his imprisonment prior to his execution.