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Jeremy Nevill BAMBER





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: August 7, 1985
Date of arrest: September 29, 1985
Date of birth: January 13, 1961
Victims profile: Five members of his adoptive family—his father, Ralph Nevill Bamber, 61; mother, June, 61; sister, Sheila Caffell, 28, and her six-year-old twin sons Nicholas and Daniel
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 Anschütz semi-automatic rifle)
Location: Goldhanger, Essex, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life in prison (minimum 25 years) on October 28, 1986

photo gallery


The Supreme Court of Judicature
Court of Appeal - Criminal Division


R -and- Jeremy Nevill Bamber


The Bamber Family Murders

In 1986, 24-year-old Jeremy Bamber was jailed for life for killing five members of his adopted family at their farmhouse in Essex. Though he still professes his innocence, Bamber's conviction has been repeatedly upheld. Among his victims were his two young nephews who were just six years old when they were killed.


In 1986, 24-year-old Jeremy Bamber was jailed for life for killing five members of his adopted family at their farmhouse in Essex.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for the murders of his step-parents, sister and her two six-year-old sons Nicholas and Daniel. Sentencing Bamber to five life prison terms, the judge Mr Justice Drake said he was "warped and evil beyond belief.

The controversial crime was hampered by police setbacks and Bamber remained a free man on bail living off his dead parents’ finances while investigations continued. Today he still protests his innocence and, as recently as 2001, his case was taken back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The White House Farm murders read like something out of a crime novel. It had all the classic ingredients of a whodunit tethered with a vicious ferocity and cruelty that contrasts with its idyllic setting.

The crime involved brutal murders in the English countryside on a summer's evening with a cast of characters straight out of a True Crime story. The victims were two overbearing religious parents, a mentally unstable daughter, a scheming, envious son, and a jilted girlfriend.

Bamber did not have a particularly audacious start in life. He was the illegitimate son of a vicar's daughter and a married army sergeant.

At six weeks old he was adopted by wealthy Neville Bamber, a former RAF pilot, and his wife June, who farmed near the Essex village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy. A few years later the Bambers adopted another child, Sheila Caffell, who they nicknamed Bambi.

Materialistically both the children wanted for nothing and were given a private education. But they also had to endure strict discipline imposed by their devoutly Christian parents.

Bamber had no interest in his father’s business, hated the farm and the farming world, and instead drifted through a series of jobs. He was however extremely flamboyant and used his affluent background as a means to impress women with a pseudo ‘playboy’ image he honed to perfection.

As an adult, Sheila was attractive enough to start a promising career as a model and her parents paid for a flat in London where she hoped to become a success.

Sheila married and had twin boys, but when the marriage broke down she became depressed and began to suffer from illness developing into schizophrenia. One psychiatric report mentions that at times she believed her children were from the devil. Because of her problems Sheila and the twins moved back to the farmhouse with her parents.

By this time, Bamber lived with his student-teacher girlfriend Julie Mugford. They shared a rent-free cottage provided by his parents at Goldhanger, a few miles from the main farmhouse.

Neville offered Bamber a job on the farm paying him £170 a week. It certainly wasn’t the glamorous position that the young man was desperate for and even his request to run the caravan site owned by the family were dismissed as Neville believed his son had no business sense.

Bamber hated the farm but his father’s will cut him off unless he stayed a farmer. He wanted the life of a ‘playboy’ and was determined to live it, at any cost. He also despised his stepmother June for preaching religion at him and he had never forgiven both parents for sending him away to public school.

The Crimes

On August 7th, 1985 at 3.26am Bamber rang the police to report that his father had just phoned frantically to say Sheila was going berserk with a semi-automatic rifle.

When the police broke in to the farmhouse they found several bodies and a scene of near carnage. Neville’s corpse, bludgeoned and shot, lay downstairs in a pool of blood. It appeared that he had been shot upstairs but had been beaten as he struggled to the kitchen to summon help.

June's bullet-riddled body was in a bedroom and Sheila's twins had each been shot several times in the head while in their sleep, one of them still sucking his thumb. Sheila, who was also in a bedroom, had been shot in the throat and was clutching a .22 rifle and a bible.

Sheila had a long documented history of illness and it seemed clear to the police that she had shot her parents, children and then finally herself.

When Bamber was interviewed at the scene of the crime he appeared genuinely distressed and was comforted by an officer and given tea and whiskey.

So convinced were the police by Bamber’s insistence that his sister perpetrated the dreadful act, that they even agreed to burn carpets and bedding in the house at Bamber’s request. Soon the press were reporting the sensational story.

‘Bambi’ had always wanted fame as a model and ironically she had now won it, briefly, on the front pages of the tabloids as an alleged mass murderer.

The Arrest

The police thought they were dealing with four murders and one suicide. They had been aware of Shelia’s mental health problems and when Bamber had made out that his disturbed sister had gone crazy there seemed no reason to question his story. However, the young man’s cavalier behaviour soon began to arouse suspicion.

At the funeral nine days later, Bamber let his vanity betray him by admitting that his only worry was that the cameras should catch his best profile. He put on a tearful performance at the graveside but afterwards he went out for a meal with friends to celebrate, not thinking twice about how this would appear.

It was even noted that on the day of the killings the police had passed Bamber driving to the scene at a casual 30mph - hardly the actions of a distressed son concerned about his family.

Finally, when Bamber told his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, that he had hired a hitman for £2,000 she reported this comment to the police.

Despite this throw-away comment, the evidence against Bamber remained circumstantial. Although Bamber's fingerprints had been found on the murder weapon, alongside those of Sheila, there was no other forensic evidence to link him to the killings - in large part due to the fact that police had allowed the crime scene to be cleared.

In the meantime Bamber enjoyed a life of luxury, spending his parents’ money and even going on holiday to Amsterdam.

Although his behaviour was now being closely watched, Bamber appeared unaffected and detached from the traumatic events. His sister’s modelling photos were all he wanted as a keepsake - so he could offer them for sale.

Fleet St turned him down but the likes of The Sun publicly demonstrated its disdain by brandishing front-page headlines with ‘Bambi Brother In Photo Scandal’.

Despite the lack of evidence against him, the investigation unveiled a quandary with regard to the murder weapon. Without a silencer, the 25 shots that were fired would have made too much noise and would have alerted the victims to the danger. Yet if a silencer was attached to the weapon, it would have been too long for Sheila to have shot herself.

This startling realisation seemed to rule out the theory that Sheila had taken her own life, and therefore the possibility that she had been responsible for the other murders. Whoever committed the crime would have had to take the silencer off before they left the house after carrying out the killings.

It was David Boutflour, Bamber’s cousin, who found the silencer in a cupboard at the farm, still with traces of Sheila’s blood on it alongside a single grey hair.

However, before forensics could study the hair, it had been lost. What was now certain was that Sheila had not committed suicide but had been murdered. This confirmation meant that Bamber’s call to the police, saying that she was running amok, was a lie.

On September 29th, 1985, Bamber was arrested and charged with murder.

The Trial

The trial commenced at Chelmsford crown court on October14th, 1986.

Bamber’s girlfriend Julie Mugford was the star witness.

She alleged that Bamber had made murderous threats against his father. She told the court that Bamber had made the reference that his "old" father, "mad" mother and sister had "nothing to live for". It was then that he spoke of arson and later a desire to hire a hit man.

There were two explanations for the killings. The first was the prosecution case that Bamber entered the Essex farmhouse owned by his mother and father at night and shot the five members of his family with a legally held rifle.

Sheila’s blood was in the silencer of the murder weapon, proving that she could not have shot herself then put it in a cupboard downstairs.

The second explanation, put forward by the defence, was that Sheila, who had a history of psychiatric illness, had shot the four members of her family with the rifle and then committed suicide.

In the initial stages the police thought it likely that the second explanation was correct. Some officers, however, thought that some of the findings were inconsistent with this explanation and members of the Bambers’ extended family did not believe that it was consistent with their knowledge of Sheila.

Despite mounting evidence, Bamber remained confident that he would leave court a free man. However, the jury at Chelmsford crown court delivered a guilty verdict by ten to two.

Bamber was handed five life sentences, with a recommendation that he stay in prison for at least 25 years without parole. After the sentencing, Mr Justice Drake said:

"I find it difficult to foresee whether it will ever be safe to release someone who can shoot two little boys as they lie asleep in their beds.”

He also noted the problems that had taken place during initial enquiries and throughout the main police investigations.

The first major error in this case was the police allowing the house be cleared shortly after the killings. The house itself had been cleaned and the carpets and bedclothes burned on instruction of Bamber.

Bamber’s fingerprints were eventually discovered on the bible and gun left on Sheila’s body, but were missed during the initial enquiries.

It was also revealed that while Bamber had said that he received a panic-stricken phone call from his father, Neville had actually been shot in the throat in the upstairs of the house and couldn’t have made such a call.

This catalogue of blunders led the trial judge Mr Justice Drake to comment “The perfunctory examination is only explicable because the police thought there was nothing to solve.

The Aftermath

Bamber needed to finance his ‘playboy’ lifestyle. If his plan had succeeded he would have received his parents’ leasehold farm, other prime land, the contents of the main house which he had reinsured and half a share in a holiday home caravan site. The total of the estate was estimated at £436,000.

Bamber was told by his trial judge, that he was "warped and evil" and added that he found it difficult to imagine anyone agreeing to release Bamber from jail in the future

He has been told by each Home Secretary since his conviction that he will never gain his freedom through parole, although Bamber has always pleaded his innocence and has seen two appeals against his convictions rejected.

In July 2001 a team of police officers were given four months to complete fresh enquiries into the case. It was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

In 2002 Bamber angered his relatives when he offered £1m as a reward for any information that would help quash his conviction.

In December 2002 he lost his appeal against his conviction and also lost a High Court case regarding a claim for £1.27m from his grandmother’s will that he thought he was entitled to.

In 2004 Bamber was attacked by a fellow prisoner with a knife while talking on the phone and needed twenty stitches.

The Crime & Investigation Network


Jeremy Nevill Bamber (born 13 January 1961) was convicted in England in 1986 of having murdered five members of his adoptive family—his father, mother, sister, and her six-year-old twin sons—at his parents' home at White House Farm, Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex, in the early hours of 7 August 1985. He was sentenced to five life terms with a recommendation that he serve at least 25 years, and in 1994 the Home Secretary ruled he must spend the rest of his life in jail. Bamber has protested his innocence over the years, believed to be the only prisoner in the UK serving a whole-life tariff to do so.

The Times wrote that the case had all the ingredients of a classic whodunit: a massacre in the English countryside, overbearing parents, an unstable daughter, a scheming son, a jilted girlfriend, and bungling police.

The police at first believed Bamber's sister, Sheila Caffell—diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder—had shot her family then turned the gun on herself. Her sons had been living with their father, but had been visiting the Bambers with Sheila when the killings occurred. According to Bamber, she feared she would lose custody of them; she also told a psychiatrist two years earlier that she thought the devil had taken her over.

When an ex-girlfriend stepped forward weeks after the murders to say Bamber had implicated himself, the police view swiftly changed, though some of the forensic evidence had already been compromised or destroyed. The prosecution argued that, motivated by a large inheritance, Bamber had killed the family and placed the gun in his unstable sister's hands to make it look like a murder-suicide. A silencer the prosecution said was on the rifle when it was fired would have made it too long, they argued, for her fingers to reach the trigger to shoot herself.

Bamber has several times asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to refer his case to the Court of Appeal; a referral in 2001 saw the conviction upheld. In 2004 and 2009, his defence team submitted what they said was new evidence to the CCRC, including a report from a photographic expert, who said that scratch marks on a mantelpiece—said to have been caused during a struggle for the gun—were not in the crime-scene photographs, but were visible only in photographs taken 34 days later.

Their submissions also included the log of a phone call made to police on the night of the murders, during which a Mr Bamber said his daughter had gone "berserk," and had stolen one of his guns. Bamber had told police that he had received a similar call from his father, but was unable to prove it; it became a central plank of the prosecution's case that the father had made no such call, and that the only reason Bamber would have lied about it was that he was the killer himself.

In February 2011 the CCRC provisionally rejected the latest submissions. Bamber's extended family have said they remain convinced of his guilt.

The Bambers

The deceased

Nevill and June Bamber

Ralph Nevill Bamber (known as Nevill), aged 61 when he died, was a farmer, local magistrate, and former RAF pilot. He and his wife, June (also 61), married in 1949 and moved into White House Farm, a Georgian house in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex. Unable to have biological children, they adopted two, Sheila and Jeremy, who were not related to each other. Nevill was described in court as 6' 4" tall and in good physical health, a point that became significant because Bamber's story is that Sheila, a slender girl of 26, was able to beat and subdue her father, something the prosecution contested. The Times writes that the couple was wealthy and gave the children a private education, but they took their Christian beliefs to the point of zealotry, and the children reportedly faced harsh discipline. June suffered from depression and was treated in a psychiatric hospital in 1982, and the court heard that her interest in religion had become obsessive.

Sheila, Nicholas, and Daniel Caffell

Sheila Jean Caffell (born 1957, aged 28 when she died) was adopted a few years later than Bamber. She attended secretarial college, then worked in London as a model, living in a flat in Maida Vale that Nevill and June paid for. She married Colin Caffell in May 1977, and the twins Nicholas and Daniel were born in June 1979. The couple divorced in May 1982.

Like June, Sheila was intensely religious. Her GP had referred her on 3 August 1983 to Dr Hugh Ferguson, a psychiatrist at St. Andrew's Hospital in Northampton. Ferguson said she was in an agitated and psychotic state and admitted her, diagnosing a schizoaffective disorder characterized by disturbance of thinking and perception. He said she was paranoid, struggling with the concept of good and evil, and believed the devil had taken her over and given her the power to project evil onto others, including her sons; she believed she could make them have sex and cause violence with her. She also believed she was capable of murdering them, or of getting them to kill others. She spoke about suicide, though he did not regard her as a suicide risk. She was discharged on 10 September 1983 and treated with Stelazine, an anti-psychotic drug. Because of her mental-health problems, her sons lived with their father, though she continued to see them.

On 3 March 1985 she was re-admitted to St Andrew's, apparently very disturbed. She again spoke about good and evil, this time related to religious ideas, and not with reference to her children or parents. She was discharged on 29 March 1985, and thereafter received monthly injections of Haloperidol, an anti-psychotic that also has a sedative effect. After the killings, Ferguson said that kind of violence was not consistent with his view of her, though he said she had expressed disturbed feelings towards her mother. June's sister, Pamela Boutflour, testified that Sheila was not a violent person, and said she had never known her to use a gun. June's niece, Ann Eaton, said Sheila "would not know one end of the barrel of a gun to another". Bamber disputed this, telling police that he and Sheila had gone target shooting together, though he acknowledged in court that he had not seen her fire a gun as an adult. Her ex-husband said she had been prone to outbursts that had involved throwing pots and pans, and occasionally hitting him, but to his knowledge she had never harmed the children.

Sheila and her ex-husband, Colin Caffell, had joint custody of the boys (born 22 June 1979, aged six when they died), though he had complained that her mental health was affecting her ability to look after them, and that he was doing 95 percent of the work. He also disliked the effect June Bamber's religious ideas might be having on them; she apparently made the boys kneel and pray with her, which upset him. The boys had been briefly placed in foster care in 1982 and 1983 in Camden, London, near Sheila's home, an arrangement the court heard had caused no problems, and according to Bamber, the family discussed doing the same thing again during their evening meal on the night of the murders, with little response from Sheila.

Jeremy Bamber

Bamber (born 1961) was the son of a vicar's daughter who had an affair with a married army sergeant, and subsequently gave her baby up for adoption when he was six weeks old. Nevill and June sent him to Gresham's School, a boarding school in Norfolk, then college in Colchester. He spent time in Australia and New Zealand, then returned to England to work on his father's farm for £170 a week. The Bambers also ran a lucrative caravan site, but according to The Times they would not let Bamber work there, saying he had no business sense. He set up home in a cottage at 9 Head Street, Goldhanger, three to three-and-a-half miles from his parents' farmhouse. Nevill owned the cottage and Bamber lived there rent-free. It took five minutes to drive by car from the cottage to his parents' home, and by bicycle 15 minutes at least.

Extended family and financial considerations

The Bamber family was wealthy, and the financial ties and the issue of inheritance within the immediate and extended family caused further complications. The prosecution's case was that Bamber had killed his family to inherit their estate, which included £436,000, the farm house where the murders took place, 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land, and a caravan site in Essex called Osea Road Camp Sites Ltd. Because of his conviction, the estate passed instead to his cousins, some of whom were involved in finding the crucial evidence against him—the gun's silencer in the farm's gun cupboard with a fleck of blood on it. The prosecution said this showed the silencer was on the gun during the attack, and that Sheila's arms were not long enough to reach the trigger to kill herself with the silencer on it; therefore she must have been murdered.

That evidence, which Bamber contests, proved crucial, and as a result of his conviction the cousins inherited the estate. One cousin on his mother's side, Ann Eaton, now lives in White House Farm, and she and several others—Sarah Jane Eaton, Pamela Boutflour, and Robert Woodwiss Boutflour—own the caravan site.

Bamber has alleged that these financial considerations meant the extended family, specifically two of the cousins whom he has named, wanted to see him convicted, and may even have set him up. The cousins have responded that Bamber is a psychopath, that his allegations against them over the years are part of an attempt to harass and vilify them, and that the allegation that they set him up is "an absolute load of piffle."

Bamber has launched several unsuccessful lawsuits to recover some of the money. In 2003, he began a High Court action to recover £1.2m from his adoptive grandmother, Mabel Speakman's, estate. He told the court he should have inherited Speakman's home at Carbonnells Farm, Wix, near Clacton, and that he was owed 17 years back rent for the property from his cousins who were living there. Speakman cut Bamber out of her will when he was arrested, and most of the inheritance went to Pamela Boutflour, June Bamber's sister, who subsequently moved into Carbonnells Farm with her husband Robert.

In 2004, Bamber went back to the High Court to argue he had been unfairly frozen out of the profits made by the caravan site. Although at that point no longer a shareholder, he had retained shares after his conviction, but had sold them to pay legal costs in connection with the 2003 attempt to claim his grandmother's estate. The High Court ruled that he was not entitled to any profit from the caravan site because of his conviction.

The murder weapon

Nevill kept several guns at the farm. He was reportedly careful with them, cleaning them after use, and made sure not to leave them lying around. The murder weapon was a .22 Anschütz semi-automatic rifle, model 525, which Nevill purchased on 30 November 1984, along with a Parker Hale silencer, telescopic sights, and 500 rounds of ammunition.

The rifle used cartridges, which were loaded into a magazine that held ten cartridges. Twenty-five shots were fired during the killing, so if it was fully loaded to begin with it would have been reloaded at least twice. The court heard that it became progressively harder to load as the number of cartridges increases; loading the tenth was described as exceptionally hard. The rifle was used to shoot rabbits with the silencer and telescopic sights attached.

The court heard that a screwdriver was needed to remove the sights, but they were normally left in place because it was time-consuming to realign them. Nevill's nephew, Anthony Pargeter, visited the farmhouse around 26 July 1985, and told the court he had seen the rifle with the sights and silencer attached in the gun cupboard in the ground floor office. Bamber testified that he visited the farmhouse on the evening of 6 August, and loaded the gun, thinking he heard rabbits outside, then left it with a full magazine and a box of ammunition on the kitchen table.

White House Farm, 7 August 1985

Sheila's visit and proposed fostering of the boys

On August 4, three days before the murders, Sheila took the boys to spend a week at the Bambers' farm. The farm's housekeeper saw Sheila on 5 August and noticed nothing unusual, and she was seen the next day with her children by two farm workers, Julie and Leonard Foakes, who said she seemed happy.

One of the photographs taken by police—but which the defence said in the December 2002 appeal that it could not recall seeing—shows that someone carved "I hate this place" into the cupboard doors of the room the twins were sleeping in. Authorship was not established, but the Court of Appeal accepted that it was probably Sheila who wrote it.

Bamber visited the farm on the evening of 6 August, and told the court his parents had suggested to Sheila that the boys be placed in foster care, because of her mental-health problems. The idea was to do this temporarily, perhaps with a local family near the farm who could help with the children. Bamber said Sheila did not seem too bothered by the suggestion, and had simply said she would rather stay in London.

Her psychiatrist, Dr. Ferguson, told the Court of Appeal in 2002 that the suggestion would have provoked a strong reaction: "I would have expected her, were this to be put to her suddenly, to be a very substantial threat and I would have expected her to react very strongly to what to her would be the loss of her children. I would not have expected her to be passive about that." He added that, had the fostering suggestion been confined to day-time help, Sheila might have welcomed it. The boys had been in temporary foster care before in London, which had not appeared to cause a problem.

Barbara Wilson, the farm's secretary, telephoned the farmhouse at 9.30 p.m. that evening and spoke to Nevill. She said he was short with her, and Wilson was left with the impression that she had interrupted an argument. Pamela Boutflour, June Bamber's sister, also telephoned the house that evening at about 10 p.m. She spoke to Sheila, who she said was quiet, then to June, who seemed normal.

Telephone calls

There was one telephone line and four telephones at the farm, including two in the kitchen: a cordless phone that had a memory recall feature, and a digital phone. The cordless had been sent away for repair, and a phone that was normally in the bedroom had been moved into the kitchen; this was the one found with its receiver off the hook, the implication being that someone—Nevill, according to Bamber—had been interrupted mid-call.

A central issue is whether Nevill telephoned Bamber before the murders to say Sheila had gone crazy and had a gun. Bamber said he did receive such a call, and that the line went dead in the middle of it, which would be consistent with the phone being found off the hook. The prosecution said he did not receive such a call, and that his claim to have done so was part of his setting the scene to blame Sheila. This was one of three key points the jury was asked to consider by the trial judge during his summing up.

Telephone log 1 (caller self-identified as Mr Bamber)

The police log of a telephone call purporting to be from Nevill to a local police station at 3:26 a.m. on 7 August does exist (see image, right), and appears to have been entered as evidence at the trial, but it was not shown to the jury, or indeed seen by Bamber's lawyers until at least 2004.

The log is headed "daughter gone berserk," and says: "Mr Bamber, White House Farm, Tolleshunt d’Arcy—daughter Sheila Bamber, aged 26 years, has got hold of one of my guns." It also says: "Mr Bamber has a collection of shotguns and .410s," and it includes the telephone number 860209, which was the number at the time for White House Farm. If this telephone call was made by Nevill Bamber, it would confirm Bamber's story. The log shows that a patrol car, Charlie Alpha 7 (CA7), was sent to the scene at 3.35 am.

Telephone log 2 (caller self-identified as Jeremy Bamber)

A different police log shows that, 10 minutes later, at 3:36 am, a caller giving his name as Jeremy Bamber rang Chelmsford Police Station. It is not known when this call was made, but the court accepted that the officer who recorded the log misread a digital clock, and that the call probably came in at around 3:26 am. The caller said he was ringing from his home in Goldhanger, and that he had just received a phone call from his father. The caller said: "You've got to help me. My father has rang me and said, 'Please come over. Your sister has gone crazy and has got the gun.' Then the line went dead." The caller also said his sister had a history of psychiatric illness and that there were guns at his father's house. The operator who took the call contacted the Police Information Room and a police car was sent to White House Farm. Bamber was asked to meet the police there. Bamber said he tried to call his father back but could not get a reply. This second log shows that a different police car, Charlie Alpha 5 (CA5), was sent to the farmhouse. A British Telecom operator checked the line to the farm at 4:30 am. The phone was off the hook, the line was open, and a dog could be heard barking.

Bamber could not explain why he had called a local police station and not 999. He told police that night that he had not thought it would make a difference in terms of how fast they arrived. He said he had spent time looking up the number, and even though his father had asked him to come quickly, he had first telephoned Julie Mugford in London, then had driven slowly to the farmhouse. He also said he could have called one of the farm workers, but had not at the time considered it. In his early witness statements, Bamber said he had telephoned the police immediately after receiving his father's call, then telephoned Mugford. During later police interviews, he said he had called Mugford first. He said he was confused about the sequence of events.

Scene outside the farmhouse

After the telephone calls, Bamber made his way to the farmhouse; a police officer later drove Mugford down from London. Several police officers were also on their way to the farmhouse. PS Bews, PC Myall, and PC Saxby drove from Witham Police Station, and passed Bamber in their car. They told the court that, in their view, he was driving much more slowly than them, though Bamber's cousin, Ann Eaton, testified that Bamber was normally a very fast driver. Bamber arrived at the farmhouse one or two minutes after the police, then they all waited for a tactical firearms group to arrive, which turned up at 5 am. Police determined that all the doors and windows to the house were shut, except for the window in the main bedroom on the first floor. They decided to wait until daylight before entering at 7:54 am through the back door, which had been locked from the inside. The only sound they reported from the house was a dog barking.

While waiting outside the police questioned Bamber, who they said seemed calm. He told them about the phone call from his father, and that it sounded as though someone had cut him off. He said he did not get along with his sister, and asked whether she might have gone berserk with the gun, the police said he replied: "I don't really know. She is a nutter. She's been having treatment." The police asked why Nevill had called Bamber and not the police; Bamber replied that his father was the sort of person who might want to keep things within the family. Bamber told them Sheila was familiar with guns and that they had gone target shooting together. He said he had been at the farmhouse himself the night before and had loaded the rifle because he thought he had heard rabbits outside. He then left it on the kitchen table, fully loaded with a box of ammunition nearby.

After the bodies were discovered, a doctor, Dr. Craig, was called to the house to certify the deaths, which he testified could have occurred at any time during the night. He said Bamber appeared to be in a state of shock, broke down, cried, and seemed to vomit. The doctor said Bamber told him at that point about the discussion the family had had about possibly having Sheila's sons fostered.

The bodies

When police entered the house, they found five bodies with multiple gunshot wounds. Twenty-five shots had been fired, mostly at close range. They said they found Nevill downstairs, and the other four upstairs. Years later, Bamber's defence team cast doubt on the position the police say they found the bodies, using photographs obtained from the police, and suggested the photographs indicate that Sheila died later than the rest of the family.


The police said they found Nevill downstairs in the kitchen, dressed in pyjamas, amid a scene that suggested there had been a struggle, though Bamber's lawyers suggested at appeal that some or all of the mayhem in the kitchen may have been caused by the armed police when they broke into the house.

Nevill's body was slumped forward over an overturned chair next to the fireplace, his head resting just above a coal scuttle. The police said chairs and stools were overturned, and there was broken crockery, a broken sugar basin, and what looked like blood on the floor. A ceiling light lampshade had been broken. A telephone was lying on one of the surfaces with its receiver off the hook, and several .22 shells beside it. He had been shot eight times, six times to the head and face, which were fired with the rifle a few inches from his skin. The remaining shots to his body had occurred from at least two feet away. Based on where the empty cartridges were found—three were in the kitchen, and one on the stairs—the police concluded he had been shot four times upstairs, but had managed to get downstairs where a struggle took place, during which he was hit several times with the rifle and shot again, this time fatally.

There were two wounds to his right side, and two to the top of his head, which would probably have resulted in unconsciousness. The left side of his lip was wounded, his jaw was fractured, and his teeth, neck, and larynx were damaged. The pathologist said he would have had difficulty talking. There were gunshot wounds to his left shoulder and left elbow. He also had black eyes, a broken nose, bruising to the cheeks, cuts on the head, bruising to the right forearm, and circular burn-type marks on his back, consistent with his having been hit with the rifle. One of the pillars of the prosecution case was that Sheila would not have been strong enough to inflict this beating on Nevill, who was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall and by all accounts in good health.


The police said they found the other four bodies upstairs. June's body was heavily bloodstained. She was found lying on the floor in the master bedroom by the doorway, wearing her nightdress and bare-footed. She had been shot seven times; one shot to her forehead between her eyes, and another to the right side of her head, would have caused her death quickly. There were also shots to the right side of her lower neck, her right forearm, and two injuries on the right side of her chest and her right knee. The police believed she had been sitting up during part of the attack, based on the pattern of blood on her clothing. Five of the shots occurred when the gun was at least a foot from her body. The shot between her eyes was from less than one foot.

Daniel and Nicholas

The boys were found in their beds, shot through the head. They appeared to have been shot while in bed. Daniel had been shot five times, four times with the gun held within one foot of his head, and once from over two feet away. Nicholas was shot three times, all contact or close-proximity shots.


Police say they found Sheila on the floor of the master bedroom with her mother, though this was disputed in 2005 by Bamber's lawyers.. She was in her nightdress and bare-footed, with two bullet wounds to her throat. The pathologist, Dr. Peter Vanezis—who in 1993 became Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at Glasgow University—said the lower of the injuries occurred from three inches (76 mm) away, and the higher one was a contact injury. The higher of the two would have killed her immediately. The lower injury would have killed her too, he said, but not necessarily straightaway; the court heard it would be possible for a person with such an injury to stand up and walk around, but the lack of blood on her nightdress suggested to Vanezis that she had not done this. He believed the lower of her injuries happened first, because it caused bleeding inside the neck, which would not have happened to the same extent if the higher, immediately fatal, wound had occurred first. Vanesiz said the blood stains on her nightdress suggested she was sitting up when she received both injuries.

According to documents found by Bamber's defence team in or around 2005—they say they are unsure whether the papers were part of the original trial bundle, but say they were not seen by the defence—the first officer to enter the house at 7.34am, PC Peter Woodcock, said of Sheila in his witness statement on 20 September 1985: "She had what appeared to be two bullet holes under her chin and blood leaking from both sides of her mouth down her cheeks." Bamber's lawyers say this is significant because, in their view, had she been shot before 3:30 am as the prosecution says, the blood would have dried by 7:30 am; because the blood was still wet, they argue she was probably shot no more than two hours earlier.

There were no marks on her body suggestive of a struggle. The firearms officer who first saw her said her feet and hands were clean, her fingernails manicured and not broken; and her fingertips free of blood, dirt, or powder. There was no trace of lead dust, which the court heard is usually the case when handling .22 ammunition. The rifle magazine would have been loaded at least twice during the killings, and this would usually leave lubricant and material from the bullets on the hands. A scenes-of-crimes officer, DC Hammersley, said there were blood stains on the back of her right hand, but that otherwise they were clean. There was no blood on the feet (this was disputed in 2005 by the defence) or other debris such as sugar, which was lying on the floor downstairs, possibly as a result of the struggle. At postmortem, low traces of lead were found on her hands and forehead, but the levels were consistent with the everyday handling of things around the house. A scientist, Mr Elliott, testified that if she had loaded eighteen cartridges into a magazine he would expect to see more lead on her hands. On her nightdress, the blood was consistent with her own, and no trace of firearm discharge residue was on it. Her urine indicated she had taken cannabis some days before, and the anti-psychotic drug Haloperidol.

The rifle—without the silencer or sights attached—was lying across her chest, pointing up at her neck, with her right hand resting lightly on it. June's bible lay on the floor beside Sheila, partly resting on her upper right arm. It was normally kept in a bedside cupboard. June's fingerprints were on it, as were others that could not be identified, except for one made by a child.

Police investigation


Journalist David Connett, who attended the trial, writes that it was by common consent a truly awful investigation. He asked one Scotland Yard officer who had reviewed it to describe it, and the response was that he pinched his nose and screwed his face up. The trial judge, Mr Justice Drake, expressed concern about what he called a "less than thorough investigation," and in 1989, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd tightened police procedures to ensure proper management of cases because of the failings of the Bamber investigation.

Connett writes that the officer in charge, DCI "Taff" Jones, deputy head of CID, was told it was a "domestic" and went off to play golf. He became convinced of the murder-suicide theory, to the point where he ordered Bamber's cousins out of his office when they asked him to consider whether Bamber had set the whole thing up. Evidence was not recorded or preserved, and three days after the killings the police burned bloodstained bedding and a carpet, apparently to spare Bamber's feelings.

The scenes-of-crime officer did not examine or see the silencer in the cupboard. It was eventually found by one of Bamber's cousins, and even then it took the police three days to collect it. The same officer moved the rifle without wearing gloves, and it was not examined for fingerprints until weeks later. The bible found with Sheila was not examined at all. Connett writes that a hacksaw blade that might have been used to gain entry to the house lay in the garden for months, and officers did not take contemporaneous notes: those who dealt with Bamber wrote down their statements weeks later. Bamber's clothes were not examined until one month later, the bodies were cremated, and all blood samples were destroyed 10 years later. Unlike DCI Jones, his junior officers were suspicious of Bamber, and when Jones was removed from the case, they began to look more closely at Bamber. Jones died before the case came to court after falling from a ladder in his home.

Bamber's behaviour after the funeral increased suspicion that he had been involved. The Times reports that, immediately after the bodies were found, he broke down and was offered tea and whisky by police, and apparently managed to persuade the police to burn bedding and carpets inside the house. He wept openly at the funerals, supported by his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, after which he flew to Amsterdam, where he apparently tried to buy a consignment of drugs and offered to sell soft-porn photographs of Sheila to tabloid newspapers. He also entertained friends to expensive champagne and lobster dinners. The behaviour served in part to draw police attention to him.

The silencer

On the day of the murders, the police searched the gun cupboard in the ground floor office, but did not examine it or search for the silencer or sights for the rifle. Three days later, members of the Bambers' extended family visited the farm with Basil Cock, the estate's executor, and during that visit, one of the cousins, David Boutflour, found the silencer and the sights in the cupboard. The court heard that his father, Robert Boutflour; his sister Ann Eaton; the farm secretary; and Basil Cock witnessed this. The family took the silencer to Ann Eaton's home to examine it, and later said they found the surface had been damaged, and there seemed to be red paint and blood on it. They told the police, who collected the silencer on 12 August, at which point he noticed an inch-long grey hair attached to it, but this was lost before the silencer arrived at the Forensic Science Service at Huntingdon.

The family returned to the farmhouse to search for the source of the red paint, and found what they said was recent damage to the underside of the red-painted mantel above the Aga in the kitchen. A scenes-of-crime officer, DI Cook, took a paint sample on 14 August, and it contained the same 15 layers of paint and varnish found in the plaint flake on the silencer. On 1 October, casts were taken of the marks on the mantel, and the marks were deemed consistent with having been caused by the silencer being in contact with the mantel more than once.

In February 2010 Bamber's legal team submitted evidence that they say shows the marks were created after the crime-scene photographs were taken.

A scientist at Huntingdon, a Mr Hayward, found blood inside and on the outside surface, the latter not enough to permit analysis. The blood inside was found to be the same blood group as Sheila's, though possibly a mixture of Nevill's and June's. A firearms expert, a Mr. Fletcher, said the blood was backspatter, caused by a close-contact shooting. Tests at the lab indicated it would have been physically impossible for Sheila, given her height and reach, to have reached the trigger to shoot herself while the silencer was attached.

According to Bob Woffinden, a second firearms expert testified that the .22 Anschütz was unlikely to produce backspatter, especially when fitted with a silencer, and a third, Major Freddy Mead, who appeared for the defence, said there was no reason to believe the silencer had been used. Woffinden writes that it was not clear that the blood was Sheila's, only that it was the same blood group. It was also the same blood group as Robert Boutflour's—the father of the cousin who found the silencer—who was in the house when the discovery was made.

Part of Bamber's defence is that the cousins who discovered the crucial evidence were the beneficiaries of his estate, which his defence team say taints any discovery they say they made. Ann Eaton, who was present on the day the silencer was found, now lives in White House Farm.

Fingerprints on the rifle

A print from Sheila's right ring finger was found on the right side of the butt, pointing downwards. A print from Bamber's right forefinger was on the breech end of the barrel, above the stock and pointing across the gun. He said he had used the gun to shoot rabbits. There were three further prints of insufficient detail to be identified.

Julie Mugford's allegations

It was because of Julie Mugford's statement to police a month after the case that Bamber was arrested. They had started dating in 1983 when she was a 19-year-old student at Goldsmith's College in London; she was still studying there when the killings occurred. She admitted to a brief background of dishonesty. She was cautioned in 1985 for having used a friend's chequebook, after it had been reported stolen, to obtain goods worth £700; when they were discovered, she said she and the friend repaid the money to the bank. She also said that in March or April 1985 she had helped Bamber steal just under £1,000 from the office of the Osea Road caravan site his family owned. She said he had stage-managed the break-in to make it seem as though strangers had done it. The admission added both to the picture of her own dishonesty and to Bamber's. After Bamber's trial, Mugford left Britain and later started a new life in Canada, where she married in 1991, works in education, and has two children.

She was very supportive of Bamber after the murders; newspaper photographs of the funeral show him weeping and hanging onto her arm. On the day after the killings, she told police only that she had received a telephone call from him at about 3.30 a.m. on 7 August, during which he sounded worried and said, "There's something wrong at home." She said she had been tired and had not asked what it was. Her position toward Bamber changed on 3 September 1985, when an old girlfriend phoned him and he asked her out in Mugford's presence. They rowed: she threw something at him, slapped him, and he twisted her arm up her back. Four days later she went to the police and changed her statement.

In her second statement to police, she said he had talked disparagingly about his "old" father, his "mad" mother, his sister who he said had nothing to live for, and the twins who he said were disturbed. Bamber denied this, saying she was making the allegations only because he jilted her. Mugford's mother also said Bamber had told her he "hated" his adoptive mother and described her as mad. A friend of Mugford's testified that Bamber had said around February 1985 that his parents kept him short of money, his mother was a religious freak, and "I fucking hate my parents." A farm worker testified that he seemed not to get on with Sheila and had once said: "I'm not going to share my money with my sister".

In discussions Mugford said she had dismissed as fantasies, he said he wanted to sedate his parents and set fire to the farmhouse. He reportedly said Sheila would make a good scapegoat. Mugford alleged he had discussed entering the house through the kitchen window because the catch was broken, and leaving it via a different window that latched when it was shut from the outside. She said she spent the weekend before the murders with him in his cottage in Goldhanger, where he dyed his hair black, and that she saw his mother's bicycle there. This was significant because the prosecution later alleged he had used the bicycle to cycle between his cottage and the farmhouse on the night of the murders. She told police Bamber had telephoned her on at 9:50 pm on 6 August to say he had been thinking about the crime all day, was pissed off, and that it was "tonight or never." A few hours later, at 3:00–3:30 am, she said he phoned her again to say: "Everything is going well. Something is wrong at the farm. I haven't had any sleep all night … bye honey and I love you lots". Her flatmates' evidence suggested that call came through closer to 3 am. He called her later during the morning of 7 August to tell her that Sheila had gone mad and that a police car was coming to pick her up and bring her to the farmhouse. When she arrived there, she said he pulled her to one side and said: "I should have been an actor."

Later that evening she asked whether he had done it. He said no, but that a friend of his had, whom he named; the man was a plumber the family had used in the past. He said he had told this friend how he could enter and leave the farmhouse undetected, and that one of his instructions had been for the friend to telephone him from the farm on one of the phones in the house that had a memory redial facility, so that if the police checked it, it would give him an alibi. Everything had gone as planned, he said, except that Nevill had put up a fight, and the friend had become angry and shot him seven times. He had told Sheila to lie down and shoot herself last, Bamber said. He then placed the bible on her chest so she appeared to have killed herself in a religious frenzy. The children were shot in their sleep, he said. Mugford said Bamber claimed to have paid the friend £2,000.

Bamber's arrest

As a result of Mugford's statement Bamber was arrested on 8 September, as was the friend Mugford said he had implicated, though the latter had a solid alibi and was released. Bamber told police Mugford was lying because he had jilted her. He said he loved his parents and sister, and denied they had kept him short of money; he said the only reason he had broken into the caravan site with Mugford was to prove that security was poor. He said he had occasionally gained entry to the farmhouse through downstairs windows, and had used a knife to move the catches from the outside. He also said he had seen his parents' wills, and that they had left the estate to be shared between him and Sheila. As for the rifle, he told police the gun was used mostly with the silencer off because it would otherwise not fit in its case.

He was bailed from the police station on 13 September 1985, after which he went on holiday to the south of France. Before leaving England, he returned to the farmhouse, gaining entry by the downstairs bathroom window. He said he did this because he had left his keys in London and needed some papers for the trip to France; he did not borrow keys from the housekeeper who lived nearby. When he returned to England on 29 September he was re-arrested and charged with the murders.

Trial, October 1986

Bamber was tried before Mr Justice Drake (Sir Maurice Drake) and a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court in October 1986 during a case that lasted 19 days. The prosecution was led by Anthony Arlidge QC, and the defence by Geoffrey Rivlin QC, supported by Ed Lawson, QC. The Times wrote that Bamber cut an arrogant figure in the witness box; at one point when prosecutors accused him of lying, he replied: "That is what you have got to establish."

Prosecution case

The prosecution case was that Bamber was motivated by hatred and greed. They argued he had left the farm around 10 pm on 6 August and later returned by bicycle in the early hours of the morning, using a route that avoided the main roads. He entered the house through a downstairs bathroom window, took the rifle with the silencer attached, and went upstairs. He shot June in her bed, but she managed to get up and walk a few steps before collapsing and dying. He shot Nevill in the bedroom too, but he was able to get downstairs where he and Bamber fought in the kitchen, before he was shot several times in the head. Sheila was also shot in the main bedroom. The children were shot in their beds as they slept.

They argued that Bamber then set about arranging the scene to make it appear that Sheila was the killer. He then discovered that she could not have reached the trigger with the silencer attached, so he removed it and placed it in the cupboard, then placed a bible next to her body to introduce a religious theme. He removed the kitchen phone from its hook, left the house via a kitchen window, and banged it from the outside so that the catch dropped back into position. He then cycled home. Shortly after 3 am, he telephone Mugford, then called the police at 3.26 a.m to say he had just received a frantic call from his father. In order to create a delay before the bodies were discovered, he did not call 999, drove slowly to the farmhouse, and told police his sister was familiar with guns, so they would be reluctant to enter.

They argued that Bamber did not receive a call from his father—that Nevill was too badly injured after the first shots to have spoken to anyone; that there was no blood on the kitchen phone that had been left dangling; and that Nevill would have called the police before calling Bamber. It was not known at this point that a police phone log existed showing that a caller saying he was Nevill did indeed phone Chemsford police station; the log appears to have been entered as evidence but was not shown to the jury. The prosecution position was that, if the call to Bamber really was the last thing the father did before shots were fired and he dropped the receiver, the line to Bamber's home would have been left open for one to two minutes, and Bamber would therefore not have been able to telephone the police immediately to let them know about his father's call, as he said he did. That the line would not have cleared in time for him to call the police is one of several disputed points.

The silencer played a central role. It was deemed to have been on the rifle when it was fired, because of the blood found inside it. The prosecution said the blood was Sheila's, and that it had come from her head when the silencer was pointed at her. Expert evidence was submitted that, given her injuries after the first shot, Sheila could not have shot herself, placed the silencer in the downstairs cupboard, then run back upstairs to where her body as found. There was also expert testimony that there were no traces of gun oil on her nightdress, despite 25 shots having been fired and the gun having been reloaded at least twice. Prosecutors argued that, had Sheila killed her family then discovered she could not commit suicide with the silencer fitted, it would have been found next to her; there was no reason for her to have returned it to the gun cupboard. The possibility that she had carried out the killings was further discounted because, it was argued, she was mentally well at the time; had no interest in or knowledge of guns; lacked the strength to overcome her father; and there was no evidence on her clothes or body she had moved around the crime scene, or been involved in a struggle.

Defence case

The defence responded that the witnesses who said Bamber disliked his family were lying or had misinterpreted. Mugford had further lied about Bamber's confession because he had betrayed her, and she wanted to stop him from being with anyone else. No one had seen him cycle to and from the farm. There were no marks on him on the night that suggested he had been in a fight, and no blood-stained clothing of his had been recovered. He had not gone to the farm as quickly as he should have when his father phoned, because he was afraid.

They argued that Sheila was the killer, and that she did know how to handle guns because she had been raised on a farm, and had attended shoots when she was younger. She had a very serious mental illness, had said she felt she was capable of killing her children, and the loaded rifle had been left on the kitchen table by Bamber. There had been a recent family argument about placing the children in foster care. They also argued that people who have carried out "altruistic" killings have been known to engage in ritualistic behavior before killing themselves, and that Sheila might have placed the silencer in the cupboard, changed her clothes, and washed herself, which would explain why there was little lead on her hands, or sugar from the floor on her feet. There was also a possibility that the blood in the silencer was not hers, but was a mixture of Nevill's and June's.

Summing up and verdict

The judge said there were three crucial points, in no particular order. Did the jury believe Mugford? Were they sure that Sheila was not the killer? He said this question involved another: was the second, fatal, shot fired at Sheila with the silencer on? If yes, she could not have fired it. Finally, did Nevill call Bamber in the middle of the night? If there was no such call, it undermined the entirety of Bamber's story, and the only reason he would have had to invent the phone call was that he was responsible for the murders.

The jury found him guilty on 18 October by a majority of ten to two; had one more juror supported him, he would not have been convicted. The judge told him he was "evil, almost beyond belief," and sentenced him to five life terms, with a recommendation that he serve at least 25 years.

Bamber in jail

Bamber said in 2001 he had had 17 jail moves and 89 cell moves since he was first arrested. The Times alleges that he has been treated with a degree of indulgence. At Long Lartin, Worcestershire, he was reportedly given the key to his cell, studied for his GCSE in sociology and media studies, had a daily badminton lesson, and drew pictures of supermodels in art class that he sold through an outside agent. He has received compensation twice, once after suffering whiplash injuries when a van moving him between prisons crashed, and once when a Gameboy was stolen from his cell.

An attractive man who was clearly comfortable with women, he says he has had three relationships with women inside, one of them with a trainee policewoman, and that he receives 50 letters a week from women. He has been involved in some trouble too. He once attacked a prisoner with a broken bottle, and had to be placed in solitary confinement when inmates were angered by his stories to journalists about the comfortable lifestyle he said prisoners have.

In May 2004, he was attacked by another inmate while making a telephone call from Full Sutton Prison, near York, and was given 28 stitches for cuts to his neck. As a prisoner alleging a miscarriage of justice, he is allowed access to the media—thanks in part to campaigning by journalist Bob Woffinden in another case—and once called a radio station from Whitemoor jail to protest his innocence.

Appeals and police inquiries

Leave to appeal refused,1989 and 1994

He first sought leave to appeal in June 1987, arguing that the judge's summing up had omitted material important to the defence and that the judge had himself expressed strong views. It was heard and dismissed by a single judge, and then heard again by a full court, and leave to appeal was refused on 20 March 1989 by Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane.

Because of the criticism of the police investigation by the trial judge, Essex police held an internal inquiry, conducted by Detective Chief Superintendent Dickinson. Bamber alleged this report confirmed that evidence had been suppressed by the police, so he made a formal complaint, which was investigated in 1991 by the City of London Police at the request of the Home Office. This process uncovered more documentation, which Bamber used to petition the Home Secretary in September 1993 for a referral back to the Court of Appeal, which was refused in July 1994. During this process, the Home Office had declined to give Bamber expert evidence that it had obtained, and so Bamber applied for judicial review of that decision in November 1994; this resulted in the Home Office handing over its expert evidence, but at that point Bamber made no further petition. In February 1996, the Essex police destroyed many of the original trial exhibits without informing Bamber or his lawyers. The officer who did it said he had not been aware that the case was on-going.

Court of Appeal, 2002

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was established in April 1997 to review allegations of miscarriage of justice, and Bamber's case was passed to them. They referred it to the Court of Appeal in March 2001 on the grounds that new DNA testing on the silencer constituted fresh evidence. The appeal was heard by Lord Justice Kay, Mr Justice Wright, and Mr Justice Henriques from 17 October to 1 November 2002, and the decision published on 12 December.

The prosecution was represented by Victor Temple QC and Bamber by Michael Turner QC. Bamber brought 16 issues to the attention of the court, 14 of them about failure to disclose evidence or the fabrication of evidence, and two (grounds 14 and 15) related to the silencer and DNA testing:

  1. Hand swabs from Sheila

  2. Testing of hand swabs from Sheila

  3. Disturbance of the crime scene

  4. Evidence relating to windows

  5. Timing of phone call to Julie Mugford

  6. Credibility of Julie Mugford

  7. Letter from Colin Caffell

  8. Statement of Colin Caffell

  9. Photograph showing the words "I hate this place"

  10. The bible

  11. Proposed purchase by Bamber of a Porsche

  12. Telephone in the kitchen

  13. Scars on Bamber's hands

  14. Blood in the silencer

  15. DNA evidence

  16. Police misconduct

Although all the issues were reviewed by the court (except point 11, withdrawn by the defence before adjudication), the reason for the referral was point 15, the discovery of DNA on the silencer, the result of a test not available in 1986. The evidence from the original trial being challenged was from a Mr Hayward, a biologist at the Forensic Science Laboratory. He had found human blood inside the silencer, and had asserted that its blood group was consistent with it coming from Sheila, but not from any of the other victims—though he also said there was a remote possibility that it was a mixture of blood from Nevill and June. Mark Webster, an expert instructed by Bamber's defence team for the appeal, argued that Hayward's tests had been inadequate, and that there was a real possibility, not a remote one, that the blood came from Nevill and June.

The defence further argued that new tests comparing DNA discovered in the moderator to a sample from Sheila's biological mother suggested that the "major component" of the DNA in the silencer did not come from Sheila, and a DNA sample from June's sister, Pamela Boutflour, suggested the major component came from her. The court concluded that June's DNA was in the silencer; Sheila's DNA may have been in the silencer; and that there was evidence of DNA from at least one male. The judges' conclusion was that the results were complex, incomplete, and meaningless since they did not establish how June's DNA came to be on the silencer years after the trial, did not establish that Sheila's was not on it, and did not lead to a conclusion that Bamber's conviction was unsafe.

In a 522-point judgment dismissing the appeal, the judges said there was no conduct on the part of the police or prosecution that would have adversely affected the jury's verdict, and that the more they examined the details of the case, the more they thought the jury was right.

Appeals against whole-life tariff, 2008 and 2009

The trial judge recommended a minimum term of 25 years, but on 15 December 1994 Home Secretary Michael Howard decided Bamber should remain in prison for the rest of his life. In May 2008, he lost a High Court appeal against the whole-life tariff in front of Mr. Justice Tugendhat (Sir Michael Tugendhat), and in May 2009 the Appeal Court upheld Tugendhat's decision. He is one of 38 prisoners in the UK to have been told they will never be released, a list that includes Rosemary West, Dennis Nilsen, and Donald Neilson. David James Smith writes that Bamber is the only one of the 38 known to protest his innocence.

Campaign to overturn the conviction

Websites and support

A campaign gathered pace over the years to secure his release, with several websites set up to examine the case:, which went live on 4 March 2001,,,, a "Jeremy Bamber" page on Facebook with 392 friends, and a "Jeremy Bamber is innocent" page with 697 friends as of August 2010. Nine days after losing his appeal in December 2002, he used one of the websites to offer a £1m reward to anyone with new evidence that would overturn his conviction.

His case was taken up by a number of public figures, including Bob Woffinden, a journalist who specializes in miscarriages of justice; former Respect MP George Galloway; crime writer Scott Lomax, author of Jeremy Bamber: Evil, Almost Beyond Belief? (2008); and Andrew Hunter, former Independent Conservative MP for Basingstoke. Hunter argued that the case was one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the last 20 years, and offered to stand bail for Bamber if there was an appeal.

Hunter also alleged in the House of Commons in February 2005 that evidence was still being withheld from the defence. He said Bamber's lawyers had requested access to the notebooks of Inspector Taff Jones, the first officer in charge of the investigation who believed Bamber was innocent, but who died before the case came to court. They also requested the findings of the coroner who looked into Inspector Jones's death; the audio recordings of all telephone and radio messages from White House farm that night; audio recordings describing the scene of the crime; video recordings of the scene of the crime; and the original radio and telephone messages log and incident report.

In August 2005, Bamber's lawyers asked the Home Secretary to pardon him. The letter to the Home Secretary said there were four million documents in the case, one quarter of which had not been disclosed to the defence. Thirty-eight boxes of papers were provided to Bamber's new defence team, including photographs that were not part of the defence papers during the trial or appeal. The Sunday Times said in 2010 that Bamber himself kept two floor-to-ceiling piles of boxes of the papers in his cell.

2004 and 2009 submissions to the CCRC

In 2004 Bamber launched a fresh attempt to obtain another appeal with a new defence team that included Italian legal adviser Giovanni di Stefano, and solicitor Barry Woods of Chivers Solicitors in West Yorkshire. Di Stefano wrote to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in March 2004 asking them to look at the case again, based in part on photographs of the crime scene that had been made available during the trial, but which were not in the bundle of photographs shown to the jury;

In 2007 his defence team also arranged for Bamber to undergo a lie detector test, which he passed. The CCRC rejected the 2004 request, but the defence team made a fresh submission in January 2009. The CCRC announced in February 2011 that it had also provisionally rejected this submission; it sent Bamber's lawyers an 89-page document setting out the reasons and invited them to respond within three months, after which it will reach a final decision.

Sheila: photographic evidence and time of death

Some of the evidence not made available to the defence before 2005 were photographs of Sheila taken by a police photographer at around 9 am on 7 August. In a letter to the Home Secretary in August 2005, Bamber's lawyers said these photographs had only recently been passed to the defence, and showed that Sheila's blood was still wet. They argued that, had she been killed before 3:30 am as the prosecution said, her blood would have congealed by 9 am. They also cited a statement from one of the first officers to enter the house at 7:34 am, PC Peter Woodcock, whose witness statement was first discovered by the defence in a box of papers in July 2005, though the defence team acknowledged the statement may have been part of the trial bundle. The statement was dated 20 September 1985 and said of Sheila: "She had what appeared to be two bullet holes under her chin and blood leaking from both sides of her mouth down her cheeks." In 2005, the defence obtained reports from two medical experts, a Professor Marco Meloni and a Professor Cavalli, who expressed the view, based on the photographs, that Sheila had died no more than two hours before the time of the photographs or PC Woodcock's description of the leaking blood; this would place her death during the period Bamber was standing outside the house with the police.

The location of Sheila's body was also disputed. A police log from the night showed that an officer said two bodies were seen at 7:37 am "on entry to the premises," one male and one female. The document said that just before the team entered the house, PC Collins reported seeing through a window what he thought was the body of a woman just inside the kitchen door. PC Woodcock then hit the door with a sledgehammer to force entry. The document also said that at 8:10 a further three bodies were reported to have been found, leaving it unclear which body was initially found in which location.

Later police reports said only Nevill had been found in the kitchen and the other four bodies upstairs. Bamber's defence team argues that it was Sheila's body that was initially seen in the kitchen alongside Nevill's; they said she may not have been dead at that point, and may have moved upstairs where she killed herself.

The only photographs of Sheila seen by the defence during the trial did not include her feet. Hunter said the new defence team had found photographs of her body that did include the feet, and showed she had blood on them. Hunter told MPs this was significant because, if she had walked through a house where four murders had just taken place, she would be expected to have blood on her feet, but it was part of the prosecution's case that her feet were clean. Hunter also said the photographs showed no rigor mortis and the skin was not discoloured. The photographs of the other victims did show rigor mortis, he said.

Radio messages and incident report

Another piece of evidence found by Bamber's lawyers was exhibit 29, a one-page list of radio messages from the scene. The lawyers asked Essex police whether the list made available to the first lawyers was the entirety of the exhibit, and went to court in March 2004 to force the police to hand over anything else they still had. It transpired that exhibit 29 was 24 pages long. MP Andrew Hunter told the Commons that the first two pages had been written on different paper from the rest of the list, and had been edited. Comparing the list to police witness statements suggested that key radio messages from police had been left out. The lawyers therefore requested the original document so that it could be sent for analysis. The police refused, according to Hunter. In addition to providing the 24 pages, he said, the police inadvertently supplied material that had not been requested: pages from a telephone log made at the time, and a contemporaneous incident report. He gave two examples:

  • At 5: 25 am, the police officers who met Bamber at White House farm and spent time outside with him—they were in a car with the call sign Charlie Alpha 7—relayed a message from the tactical firearms team. The team said they were in conversation with someone inside the farm house. According to Bamber's website, the log said:

05.25 Firearms team are in conversation with a person from inside the farm
05.29 From CA7 [Charlie Alpha 7]—Challenge to persons inside house met with no response

  • Another piece of evidence consisted of four entries in the logs and incident report. Hunter told the Commons that it contradicted the prosecution's account of police finding Nevill's body downstairs in the kitchen, and the other four bodies upstairs. An entry in the radio message log said: "0737: one dead male and one dead female in kitchen." The telephone message log said: "0738: one dead male and one dead female found on entry." At 7:40 am, the incident log noted a message from a Detective Inspector IR: "Police entered premises. One male dead, one female dead." At this point police had not yet searched upstairs. When they did, they later reported: "House now thoroughly searched by firearms team. Now confirmed a further 3 bodies found." The chief prosecution lawyer, Anthony Arlidge QC, told Bamber's lawyers in 2005 that he had not seen any of these logs. A retired police officer who worked on the case told reporters in 2011 that the police logs were simply mistaken.

New telephone log

In August 2010, the Daily Mirror reported that the defence team had located a police telephone log that had been entered as evidence during the trial, but had not been noticed by Bamber's lawyers, and was not part of the jury bundle. It showed that someone calling himself Mr Bamber had telephoned police at 3:26 am on the night of the attack to say his daughter had one of his guns and was going berserk.. If this call was made by Bamber's father, it might serve to confirm Bamber's version of events. Stan Jones, a former detective sergeant who worked on the case, said the log was not new, and that all the paperwork was given at the time to the defence. He told The Essex Chronicle: "The only person who telephoned the police was Jeremy Bamber. There is no way his father phoned. To suggest it is farcical."

Scratch marks

The latest piece of evidence submitted to the CCRC was a report dated 17 January 2010 from Peter Sutherst, described by newspapers as one of the UK's top photographic experts, who was asked by the defence team in 2008 to examine negatives of photographs of the kitchen taken on the day of the murders and later.

In his report, he argued that scratch marks in paintwork on the kitchen mantelpiece had been created after the crime-scene photographs had been taken. The prosecution alleged that the marks had been made as the silencer, attached to the rifle, had scratched against the mantelpiece during the struggle in the kitchen, and that paint chips identical to that on the mantelpiece were found on or inside the silencer.

Sutherst said the scratch marks appeared in photographs taken on 10 September, 34 days after the murders, but were not visible in the original crime-scene photographs. He also said he had failed to find in the photographs any chipped paint on the carpet below the mantelpiece, where it might have been expected to fall had the mantelpiece been scratched.

He told The Observer in February 2010: "In this case the scratch marks underneath the mantelshelf turned out to be the most significant bit of evidence that we came across. ... It was possible to line up all these pictures in jigsaw fashion to show that the scratch mark from the underside of the mantelshelf did not extend into the picture of the mantelshelf taken on the 7th of August ... So the marks had been put there after the original incident."

Bob Woffinden's arguments

Journalist Bob Woffinden has specialized since the late 1980s in investigating miscarriages of justice. He has argued, as an alternative scenario, that Sheila killed her family, but was still alive and watching from an upstairs window as police gathered outside the house; this, he writes, would explain why police thought they saw someone inside. At some point she went downstairs to the kitchen where her father lay dead, and shot herself once, intending to take her own life. The shot was not fatal, but she did lose consciousness. The police looked through the kitchen window and saw two bodies in the kitchen, thinking her dead. As they broke down the back door, she regained consciousness, and slipped upstairs using one of the back staircases.

One of the officers said when he entered the house that he heard a sound upstairs, and shouted to Sheila, assuming it was her. Woffinden argued that, hearing this, Sheila went into her mother's bedroom and shot herself a second time, this time fatally. Because the muzzle was pressed again her skin, Woffinden wrote that it may have muffled the sound enough to explain why none of the officers heard the shot.


Case Synopsis

By Scott Lomax

In October 1986 Jeremy Bamber was convicted by a majority of ten to two of the murders of five members of his family. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with the recommendation that he should serve a minimum of twenty-five years behind bars. Despite two failed appeals Jeremy maintains he is innocent and the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

In the early hours of 7 August 1985 the police were called to White House Farm in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex, having been told by Jeremy Bamber that his adopted father, Ralph, had telephoned him to say that Bamber’s sister (a paranoid schizophrenic named Sheila Caffell) had “gone crazy” and had got a gun. At 07:30, after having been at the farm for a number of hours, members of the Tactical Firearms Unit stormed the building and found five dead bodies. Ralph had been shot eight times and was found in the kitchen. Sheila Caffell’s twin sons were found in their room with one having been shot three times in the head and the other five times in the head. Ralph’s wife, June, was found in the main bedroom where she had been shot seven times. Beside June’s bed lay Sheila Caffell, who had been shot twice in the throat and who held an Anschutz rifle in her hands. It appeared she had committed suicide, with the post mortem examination showing that she could have survived for a few minutes after sustaining the first wound but would have died immediately upon sustaining the second. Sheila was known to have considered ending her life, expressed an intention to kill her sons and felt the need to cleanse her mother’s ‘evil’ mind. It was therefore not surprising that the police believed she killed her family before ending her own life. However, in September 1985 Jeremy was arrested twice and charged with five murders.

Sheila could not have committed the murders, the court heard, because she was inexperienced with guns. What the jury never heard was that she had gone on shooting holidays with a cousin. It is true that twenty five or twenty six rounds had been fired and that all or all but one had hit their target but most shots had been fired from a few inches away and so, from such a short range, how could she be expected to miss?

Three days after the shootings one of Jeremy’s cousins found a sound moderator (silencer) in a downstairs gun cupboard. Upon close examination later that evening it was noticed that a small amount of blood was present inside the tube. Tests on the blood appeared to show that it originated from Sheila Caffell. It was claimed at trial that there was a “remote possibility”, however, that the blood could have been a mixture from Ralph and June Bamber. If the blood was Sheila’s then this meant she could not have committed suicide, the prosecution argued, because if she did kill herself how did the sound moderator find its way downstairs? Recent tests show the blood was not Sheila’s; none of her DNA was found, yet DNA from June Bamber and a male, possibly Ralph Bamber, was found.

It was alleged Jeremy entered the farmhouse via the window for the downstairs toilet and that he climbed out of a window in the kitchen after having killed his family. It was argued at trial that both of these windows had been found insecure, but numerous documents unavailable at the trial show that when the police entered the building all of the windows were closed and locked. If they were locked, and all of the doors were locked, then how did Jeremy get into the house to carry out the murders?

The main evidence against Jeremy came from Julie Mugford who, at the time of the deaths, was his girlfriend. She told the court that Jeremy had plotted to kill his family for many months before their deaths. On the eve of the shootings Jeremy told Mugford, “Tonight’s the night”, the jury were led to believe. He later phoned to tell her that everything was going well. Jeremy’s defence team argued Mugford could not be treated with credibility because she approached the police almost immediately upon being dumped by Jeremy. It was shown Mugford had become incredibly hurt and upset and at one point in time she had tried to smother Jeremy with a pillow, by her own admissions stating “If I can’t have you, nobody can”

If Jeremy was the murderer he must have committed his crimes between midnight and 03:00 on the morning of 7 August 1985. This is a fact. From 03:15 onwards Jeremy was speaking to the police on his phone at his cottage in Goldhanger (three and a half miles from White House Farm), driving to White House Farm and then he was in the company of police officers until long after the bodies were discovered. The many bullets fired at each of his alleged victims would have meant that they died within moments of being shot. How, therefore, could the police have seen someone moving within the farmhouse at 03:45 and later, at 05:25, could they have been conversing with someone inside the building? Whilst he was outside White House Farm with two police officers a figure was seen moving in the main bedroom. At trial the figure was dismissed as a shadow or trick of light, but now documentary evidence shows the officer who made the sighting recorded seeing ‘an unidentified male.’ A log of radio communications shows that at 05:25 the tactical firearms officers were ‘in conversation’ with a person inside White House Farm. How could this be if everyone inside was dead? It is known, from studying photographs never shown to the jury, that Sheila Caffell was still bleeding after 09:00 when photographs of the scene of the crime were taken. How could this be if she had been shot at least six hours earlier? People stop bleeding shortly after death. Their blood would not stay red and running as can clearly be seen in the previously unseen photographs.

The sighting of what was believed to be a male at 03:45 introduces the possibility that someone other than Sheila or Jeremy carried out this terrible crime. It was said at trial that only Jeremy or Sheila could have been responsible and so if it could be shown Sheila was not a murderer then Jeremy had to be guilty, the jury were led to believe. Therefore the possibility that some unknown man along with the radio log evidence and now the photographic evidence was the killer raises serious questions over the safety of Jeremy’s conviction.

Whether it was Sheila Caffell or some other individual who was seen moving within the building, and who later spoke to the police, remains unknown but what is certain is that Sheila was alive long after 03:00 and therefore Bamber could not have been responsible for her death or the deaths of anyone else inside the building and that is a fact. On the basis of this highly significant new evidence Jeremy Bamber’s case is being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who it is hoped will refer it to the Court of Appeal in the near future.


Is Bambi's killer innocent?

by Bob Woffinden

19th May 2007

A lie-detector test. A tell-tale trickle of blood. Twenty years after Jeremy Bamber was jailed for the brutal slaughter of his family, startling new evidence raises a deeply disturbing question

At about 3.30am on August 7, 1985, Jeremy Bamber called the police. "My father's just phoned me," he told them.

"He said: 'Please come over. Your sister has gone crazy and has got a gun'."

That proved to be the start of one of the most remarkable criminal cases in English history - one that is still controversial today.

When police broke into the farmhouse owned by Bamber's parents, they found five people dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

According to all the first reports, Bamber's sister, Sheila - a model with psychiatric problems - had shot her six-year-old twin sons, her parents and then herself.

The Mail's headline next day was: "Drugs probe after massacre by mother of twins."

Over the weeks, however, the story changed.

Relatives found a silencer, showing traces of blood, in the gun cupboard and took it to police. If it had been used in the shootings, then how could Sheila have put it back there afterwards? And how could she have shot herself twice?

Then, a month after the murders, Julie Mugford, Jeremy Bamber's former girlfriend, went to police and painted a deeply damaging picture of him, including the claim that he wanted to get rid of his relatives.

Bamber, who was then 24, was charged with murdering his family.

In October 1986, he was convicted of all five killings, becoming one of the most reviled men in Britain. Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, ruled that he should never be released.

Bamber, who is now 46, has served more than 20 years but from the start he has vehemently protested his innocence.

He claims to be buoyed by what his father used to say: "Don't worry, Jeremy, the truth always comes out in the wash."

Last month, in Full Sutton prison near York, Bamber passed a lie-detector test. "Did you shoot your family?" he was asked.

"No," he replied.

Lie-detector tests have always been controversial; but if they are to be trusted, then Bamber is innocent.

Moreover, the Mail can reveal new evidence supporting his account. His solicitor has now asked the Home Office to release him immediately.

Nevill Bamber was a farmer and magistrate. He and his wife, June - both 61 when they died - married in 1949 and shortly afterwards took over White House Farm in the Essex village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy.

As they could not have children, they adopted Sheila and Jeremy (who were unrelated to each other) and privately educated them.

After college in Colchester, Jeremy spent some time in Australia and New Zealand before returning to work on his father's farm. He lived in the neighbouring village, Goldhanger, and in 1983 started a relationship with Julie Mugford, then a 19-year-old student at Goldsmith's College in London.

Sheila, who was 28 when she died, went to secretarial college, before working in London as a model, where she acquired the nickname Bambi. She married Colin Caffell in 1977, and their twin sons were born in 1979.

By that time, however, Shelia's mental health was poor. She and Colin divorced in 1982, and the following year she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

In March 1985, a few months before the murders, she was described as "very disturbed" and "acutely ill" and was re-admitted, although she was released some weeks later.

Meanwhile, the twins lived with their father, though Sheila saw them regularly. On Sunday, August 4, Colin drove Sheila and the boys to Tolleshunt D'Arcy to spend a few days at the farm.

On Tuesday, August 6, according to Jeremy and another relative, Nevill and June suggested to Sheila that the twins should be put into foster homes.

When the farm secretary phoned that evening, she said Nevill was "very short" and thought she had interrupted an argument.

It was during that night, says Jeremy, that his father made his dramatic call. After phoning the police, Jeremy called Julie, before setting off for Tolleshunt D'Arcy. He arrived, he says, just two minutes after the police.

No one was allowed into the house. Even when the tactical firearms unit turned up at 5am, the police still waited outside.

Finally, four hours after Jeremy's urgent call, they burst into the house through the back door at 7.30am. They found five bodies. There had been 25 shots with a .22 Anschutz semi-automatic rifle, mostly at close range.

During the day, statements were taken from the main witnesses. Julie Mugford's supported Jeremy's.

At the time, the police were satisfied with the murder-and-suicide scenario. The original investigating officer, DCI 'Taff' Jones, has always believed this - as did the coroner.

Because the killer's identity was not in question, the house was not treated properly as a crime-scene; much forensic evidence was obliterated or never gathered. Bloodstained bedding and carpets were destroyed.

On August 10, relatives - Jeremy Bamber's cousins Ann Eaton and David Boutflour - found the silencer in the gun cupboard with what looked like a flake of dried blood on it. Though it was examined by police on August 13, they found nothing.

During the next month, Jeremy behaved neither sensitively nor prudently. There was a huge media presence at the funerals, where it was suggested that he was over-theatrical in his grief.

He certainly didn't otherwise appear grief-stricken. He had spent lavishly, flown to Amsterdam and even tried ( unsuccessfully) to sell soft-porn pictures of Sheila from her modelling days round Fleet Street for £100,000.

More than a month later, the silencer was examined again.

This time, a scientist found a speck of blood of the same type as Sheila's; he concluded that she must have been shot while the silencer was fitted to the rifle.

Apart from raising the question of who returned the silencer back to the cupboard, this discovery meant that it would have been impossible for Sheila to have killed herself because the gun would have been too long.

DCI Jones was removed from the case. (He died in a fall from a ladder at his home before the case went to trial.)

On September 3, Julie Mugford found out that Bamber had asked out another girl.

Furious, she threw an ornament box across the room and slapped him. He ended their relationship.

Four days later, she went to the police and told them a different story.

Bamber, she said, had shown no remorse; after the murders, he'd thrown money around and clearly enjoyed himself.

Furthermore, he'd talked to Julie before the killings about wanting to get rid of them all, speculating about the perfect murder.

On the night of the massacre, she said, Bamber rang to say: "It's tonight or never."

He added that he'd hired a hitman, called Matthew McDonald, for £2,000. She could prove he was dishonest because they'd burgled the family-owned caravan site together five months earlier.

At the eventual murder trial, Julie's evidence was vital to the prosecution case. The Crown argued that Bamber detested his parents for having sent him to boarding school, and resented Sheila's success and the allowances they made for her state of mind.

But his chief motive, said the prosecutor, was to inherit about £435,000 and 300 acres of land.

The rest of the case seemed cut and dried. Sheila would not have known how to use the gun, which would have had to be reloaded at least twice.

The silencer would have made the gun too long for her to point at herself, and she couldn't have returned it to the cupboard. There were no bloodstains on her body or her nightdress and no traces of firearms residue - except a bit of lead on her hands.

There was no documentary evidence - as there would be today - to back up Bamber's claims of the phone call he received from his father.

On October 18, 1986, ten of the 12 jurors returned a guilty verdict.

Sentencing Bamber to life, Mr Justice Drake described him as "warped, callous and evil".

With hindsight, the case against Bamber was thin. There was no evidence that he had travelled from his home to the farmhouse and back again in the early hours of the morning.

Nor was there forensic evidence linking him to the crimes, other than one of his fingerprints being on the gun. But he admitted using it previously to shoot rabbits and Sheila's fingerprint was also on it; as were those of the policeman who'd picked up the gun after the murders.

When the silencer was found, no one who handled it had worn gloves to try to retain the evidence.

However, there was a flake of blood inside, and the forensic expert who analysed it concluded that it came from Sheila - backspatter (a spray of blood from the victim) after she had been shot.

However, another expert, who also gave evidence for the Crown, said that the .22 Anschutz was unlikely to produce backspatter - and even less likely to when fitted with a silencer.

Major Freddy Mead, a firearms expert appearing for the defence, noted that there were no grounds for believing that the silencer had been used at all during the attacks.

No one could even be sure that the blood in the silencer was Sheila's. The blood tests available at that time were basic. All that could be done was blood grouping.

The prosecution later conceded that Sheila's blood group matched that of Robert Boutflour, Jeremy's uncle, who was present when the silencer was found.

Other scientists said that the flake could have been a mixture of Nevill's and June's blood. The jury had asked whether this was a possibility.

There was also blood on the barrel of the rifle; again, no one knows whose.

It would be invaluable to learn more about this evidence, using scientific techniques available today.

But this is impossible because Essex police destroyed many of the original trial exhibits, including all the blood-based samples, in February 1996.

Those responsible insisted they had not realised that the exhibits might be needed - yet ever since the conviction, this case had been a hot topic.

In February 1996, it was still under consideration by the Home Office and was one of the first to be transferred to the new Criminal Cases Review Commission, which said the destruction of scientific exhibits was "in breach of the force's own guidelines".

Bamber's lawyers have always believed that Nevill and June were shot in their bedroom. June struggled across it before collapsing, while Nevill, having been shot twice, managed to get downstairs to reach the telephone and call Jeremy.

He then struggled with his assailant, who beat him with the rifle butt before shooting him dead. The prosecution maintained that there were signs of a tussle, with furniture being overturned, which meant that Jeremy, not Sheila, must have been the attacker.

However, according to a document later released by City of London Police (which had been asked in 1991 by the Home Office to conduct an independent inquiry into Essex police's handling of the investigation), the officers knocked over chairs when they burst into the house.

Further, Sheila could have subdued Nevill; having been shot twice, he would have been weak.

Also, it was possible for Sheila to have shot herself twice. The first wound, to her throat, was fired from a distance of three inches but would not have killed her instantly; the second, fired with the barrel pressed against the skin, would have done.

But could Bamber have shot her?

There was no evidence that Sheila had resisted and Bamber would have needed to be underneath her, with her acquiescing, in order to fire the shots at the angle they entered the body.

In effect, he was convicted on the evidence of his own conduct after the shootings, as well as the word of one scientist and his former girlfriend.

Yet not only did her account contradict much of what she had originally stated; it was not supported in crucial ways. The alleged hitman, Matthew McDonald, who gave evidence at the trial, had a strong alibi.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to appeal in March 2001. The appeal began in October the following year.

By then, as much scientific testing as possible had been carried out.

The appeal court judges determined that June Bamber's DNA - but not necessarily Sheila's - was in the silencer. They added, however, that they believed there had been significant contamination of the samples and the results were meaningless.

Looking at the case as a whole, they concluded in December 2002 that "the deeper we have delved into the available evidence, the more likely it has seemed to us that the jury were right".

Bamber responded to the disappointment by changing his legal team.

Bamber's defence depends on whether Sheila was a viable suspect. Her family did not think she was capable of serious violence.

"Apart from the odd occasion when she has struck me in a temper," said her former husband, Colin Caffell, "she has, to my knowledge, never struck anyone."

However, Dr Hugh Ferguson, consultant psychiatrist at St Andrew's hospital in Northampton where she was treated, reported that she was "caught up with the idea that the Devil had taken her over and given her the power to project evil on to others, including her sons".

When she was discharged from hospital in September 1983, Ferguson wrote that she had thoughts that she was "capable of murdering her own children".

He made a "firm diagnosis" of schizophrenia, prescribing the antipsychotic drug Stelazine.

She was re-admitted in March 1985 and received injections of another anti-psychotic drug, Haloperidol.

The drug was found in her bloodstream when she died (as was cannabis).

As the appeal court judges said, "She had a psychotic illness requiring in-patient treatment. She had severe mood disturbances (schizophrenia) and she used cannabis and cocaine."

Learning of the killings, Dr Ferguson initially said that such violence was incongruous with his view of Sheila.

Yet, when told that it had been suggested that her children be taken into foster care, he said that this could have had "a catastrophic effect".

He added: "I would not have expected her to be passive about that."

Dr Ferguson said in his evidence that it would have transformed her image of her father from "a support and mentor into a hostile figure".

Instances of psychiatric patients murdering others and then themselves were almost unknown in 1985-6. But they have occurred with tragic regularity in the years since, particularly in the United States.

Bamber's current lawyer is the controversial Giovanni di Stefano. Born in Italy, di Stefano was raised in Northamptonshire and has built a practice in Italy and Britain. His clients have included Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic.

Di Stefano has found the previously lost statement of the first officer to enter the house, at 7.34am.

The officer stated: "(Sheila Caffell) had what appeared to be two bullet holes under her chin and blood leaking from both sides of her mouth down her cheeks."

This puts the case into a fresh light. If blood was still leaking from Sheila's wounds, then she had died relatively recently, and certainly long after the time that Bamber called the police.

It also fits with other evidence. That night, as police waited with Bamber at a safe distance from White House Farm, they said they saw someone moving through the house. That has always been known. Later, it was assumed they were mistaken. Perhaps they were right all along.

It could explain too why Sheila was not bloodied and had only traces of lead on her hands. She could have washed herself and changed before killing herself.

Professor Bernard Knight, a pathologist who gave evidence at the trial, said that those committing suicide would often engage beforehand in "ritualistic" cleaning.

One final aspect of the case that has never been given attention is - assuming Bamber was guilty - why would he have invented such a preposterous story about the phone call from his father?

It would have been simpler for him to go back to bed, make himself scarce and let it appear that there had been intruders.

The idea that he could invent a tale of a killing spree by a mentally disturbed woman to be lent credibility by further violent episodes over the following decade is hard to credit.

Following the lie-detector test, the case is now set more favourably for him than it has ever been.

Maybe the truth will still come out in the wash.



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