“I was quite annoyed that I had not been told what her plans were”
- The boyfriend, 18th October 2011
Joanna Clare Yeates was born in Southampton, Hampshire, on 19th April 1985, the second child of David Yeates & Teresa Yeates (née Troake). Her uncle Peter Yeates, an officer with Dorset Police, was her godfather (but this would not become known publicly until 2013). Blue-eyed Joanna attended the private boarding school Embley Park in Romsey. She went on to Peter Symonds College in nearby Winchester for A-levels in art, biology and geography. It was here she struck up a close friendship with Rebecca Scott, who was also studying biology. Joanna then studied landscape design and horticulture at Writtle agricultural college in Chelmsford, Essex, where she lived with Londoner Emma Brooks. They became good friends.
After completing her course in Essex, Joanna got a job at Hyland Edgar Driver, in Colden Common, near Winchester. In September 2008 she changed jobs to work for the Bristol studio of Building Design Partnership at 7 Hill Street. Nothing said publicly by her family or friends, nor anything said in court, indicates that she ever met Vincent Tabak socially or in connection with her work. However, according to The Sun, 21st January 2011: “Tabak knew landscape architect Jo and they worked together on joint schemes for their respective firms, according to a former colleague of his at consultant engineers Buro Happold. They said: ‘They would have met in her office or on location.’”
|Keith Pavey (photo: BDP)|
Joanna’s elder brother Chris Yeates (28 years old in 2011) is married to Russian-born Alla Ritch. He was a pupil at King Edward VI School in Southampton. Among his friends there was Matthew Wood, who went on to study chemistry and physics, and moved to Bristol in 2000, where he researched his Ph.D in electrodeposition and surface roughness analysis at the University Physics Department. According to The Mail (11th January 2011), he works for an environmental science charity. Matthew was one of the few people whom Joanna already knew there when she first moved to Bristol herself.
|Joanna Yeates with her|
boyfriend Greg Reardon
It was during 2009 that Joanna’s godfather Det Sgt Peter Yeates began stealing mobile telephones and other electronic appliances from his employer Dorset Police, and selling them. Three years would pass before his abuse of trust was detected and punished.
|David Booth (from ITN video)|
|Joanna with her Master’s project|
The clouds gatherDuring the week before the week of her death, she had been suffering from really bad headaches. On Thursday, 16th December, 2010, Joanna took a day’s sick leave. This was allegedly because of a cold, but this could have been an excuse for something connected in some way with her killing. No medical evidence of her prior health was produced in court, neither to show that she was fit and healthy, nor to show that she suffered from a physical weakness that might have made her unexpectedly vulnerable.
- Premenstrual tension. If Joanna had been having her period about the time of her death, this could have had a significant influence on her boyfriend’s behaviour towards her and also on the likelihood of her sending flirty signals to Vincent Tabak.
- When her body came to be examined by pathologists, she was found to have incurred 43 injuries. Several of the prosecution witnesses who testified at the trial of Vincent Tabak might have been able to shed some light on whether Joanna had received any of her injuries in the days leading up to her death, whether these injuries had been connected with her headaches or an accidental fall, and whether she had been in a fight with someone (especially her boyfriend) on the evening of Wednesday 15th December 2010. She might have needed a day to recover and apply make-up to the bruises that might be visible. However, neither member of Vincent Tabak’s defence team made any attempt to question any of these witnesses about her health nor possible PMT. The conjectured reasons for a fight could be: that she wanted to end the relationship, that she was cheating on her boyfriend, or that she claimed to be pregnant by another man.
- Termination of pregnancy. The motive for her killing could have been an unwanted pregnancy resulting from an affair with another man, and she may have booked time at an abortion clinic on the Thursday. Being in the early stages of pregnancy might also have influenced her moods.
- Her headaches may have been symptoms of a Sexually Transmitted Infection, which may have kept her away from work on the Thursday, or for which she may have sought treatment that day. An STI could have been the motive for her killing.
|The Hope & Anchor|
Joanna at the Bristol Ram pub
|Joanna Yeates emerging from the ladies|
at the Ram pub wearing her distinctive top
Unlike all the other indoor CCTV video clips, those from the Bristol Ram pub are black & white. This suggests that the police may have redacted the chroma signal out, to avoid revealing that the blouse she was wearing in the pub was a different colour from the one found on her body.
In a written statement read out to the court by junior prosecuting counsel Nicholas Rowland at Vincent Tabak’s trial for her murder, the jury heard how Joanna Yeates told her office manager Elizabeth Chandler while they were at the Bristol Ram pub together that she was “dreading” spending the weekend alone just hours before she died. “It was the first time she was going to be left on her own. Her partner Greg, whom I know, was going away.” Joanna’s father, however, asserted that Greg had been away before (The Guardian, 23rd December 2010). In their cross-examination of the witnesses who knew the victim, neither Nicholas Rowland, Dean Rowland nor William Clegg QC asked about whether this “dread” might have been because she and her boyfriend were no longer lovers, or whether she was afraid of him.
|The Bristol Ram pub, Park Street|
We have only Nigel Lickley QC’s word for it that the short-sleeved top Joanna was seen wearing in the pub was identical to the pink one subsequently found on her body – and he was not under oath. None of her colleagues who were in the pub, nor anyone else, testified to a positive identification of the top. This suggests that they could have been two different tops, indicating that she was not killed that evening but on the Saturday or the Sunday.
According to The Mirror, 14th October 2011, Joanna told her colleagues in the Ram pub that her dad did weight-lifting “even though he was quite old”.
The landlord of the Bristol Ram pub, Alex Major, would tell The Independent’s Rob Hastings (28th December 2010) that Joanna was well known to bar staff. “Her company comes in here three or four times a week, and she would come in every Friday. We knew her and her boyfriend”.
At 8.02 p.m. Joanna put on a green fleece over her blouse, and then put on her cream-coloured winter jacket. She was captured on CCTV leaving the pub. Mr. Rowland would ask Darragh Bellew in court whether Joanna had left before the other drinkers. The Irishman replied: “She would always leave before most of us. When we would go on drinking she would go to be with Greg (her boyfriend) really.” A more persistent junior prosecutor would have followed this up with a question about why Joanna had left before the other drinkers on this particular evening, when she had no boyfriend waiting at home for her.
Neither counsel made any attempt to cross-examine this or any other witness to find out whether it had been Joanna’s fixed habit to leave on the stroke of 8 o’clock, enabling someone who knew her well to keep an eye out for her. It was probably hunger that caused her to leave earlier than her colleagues, who may have eaten heartier lunches than Joanna’s half-helping of cheesy chips. No bar food was available in the Bristol Ram Pub that evening.
After Vincent Tabak had been arrested, he gave police a prepared statement, where he claimed that he did not know Joanna Yeates and that he had never spoken to her or her boyfriend. “Until her picture was shown prominently in the press I would not have recognised her,” he told police. He had been in the USA from 6th November 2010 to 11th December 2010, so she was his neighbour for a total of only seventeen days.
Joanna’s walk to Clifton
|Joanna Yeates in Waitrose|
After leaving Waitrose, she made an abrupt left-turn, down one of the roads leading towards Regent Street. In the course of her zig-zagging walk towards Clifton, Joanna sent texts to each of three men friends in turn, evidently hoping to combine further social activity with an evening meal.
To the first man friend she contacted on her way home, BDP architect Samuel Huscroft, who had planned to go to the Bristol Ram pub with the others, but who went home instead, as he was not feeling well, she texted: “Where are you this fine evening?” He texted back but claims that he did not receive a reply.
She also contacted a former colleague, Peter Lindsell. At 8.12 p.m. she texted: “Peter, where art thou?! Jx”. He replied immediately that he was about to board a train at Bristol’s Temple Meads Station to Reading, where he was attending a wedding that weekend.
At 8.24 p.m. she texted Peter Lindsell again: “On my tod, just thinking about how much fun your birthday was.” He thought this was an odd comment, because she was referring to his BBQ in April 2009, and could not think why she would make that comment. He replied at 8.25 p.m., offering to meet up with Joanna Yeates and Greg Reardon for a drink – either before Christmas or after. He recounted: “I took it from her text that she was at a loose end, which is why I suggested the drink because I had not seen Greg or Jo for such a long time. After that text I didn’t hear any more from Jo but didn’t think that was unusual.”
|Joanna Yeates in Bargain Booze|
- Channel 4 News, 28th December 2010
Joanna knew Matthew Wood through her brother Chris. There is a strong likelihood that he was one of her ex-boyfriends. He was at a works party in a pub in the Clifton Triangle, which Joanna passed on her way, when his mobile phone registered her text at 8.26 p.m. However he would claim that he did not see it until 9.22 p.m. He replied, “At office party. Not sure what I’m doing later.” He claims he never received any reply.
|Tesco Express in Clifton Village|
|Joanna Yeates paying for her pizza at the automatic|
check-out in Tesco Express
No witness under oath testified to the integrity of the evidence of this pizza and her other purchases, nor of the various videos from CCTV, in which Joanna’s actions were captured, and which were shown in court.
|Fr. George Henwood|
It was 0.4 mile along the icy pavements from Tesco and the Hophouse pub to her home. This would have taken her nine minutes to walk, if that is where she was heading.
Was it Joanna who screamed?Screams were heard that evening by various people who were in the vicinity of 44 Canynge Road. In the light of all the evidence available, however, the overwhelming balance of probability is that they were not Joanna’s screams and that she died later, probably much later.
|53 Canynge Rd|
Primary school teacher Matthew Phillips went to Peter & Rose Browne’s party at No. 53, on the other side of Canynge Road from Joanna Yeates’s flat, and said in a written statement that he heard a “commotion” as he was waiting to go into the house. He added that it sounded like a group, and one person had “shrieked”.
A friend of his, Warren Sweet, testified that he arrived at the Brownes’s party together with Matthew Phillips at about 8.30 p.m. but heard neither screams nor a commotion.
|Zoe & Florian Lehman|
|The entrance to Joanna’s flat at 44 Canynge Rd,|
showing the security light above the front path
As they had walked past 44 Canynge Road, Zoe Lehman had noticed that the security light outside Joanna’s flat was lit. According to The Telegraph (10th October 2011), the people who heard the screams were seen on CCTV passing the flat at 8.49 p.m., implying that Joanna Yeates would have been home for only about five minutes when she was strangled, if the screams heard by the Lehmans really were hers.
|44 & 42 Canynge Rd.|
Farmer’s son Harry Walker, who lives in Percival Road, behind Joanna Yeates’s flat, said he was at home having dinner with his fiancée when he heard a loud scream over the noise of the television at about 8.30 p.m. He remembered it definitely being a “human noise”, definitely not an animal, but dismissed it as partying students, even though it was still relatively early.
A man living in the building behind 44 Canynge Road was working in his bedroom when he heard a loud, impassioned cry from outside, including the words “Help me!” Although he looked out of his window and then went outside to check, he could neither see nor hear anything. After he learnt that Joanna Yeates’s body had been found, he went to the police and told them that he was uncertain about the timing of this cry, but believed he had most probably heard it during the morning of 18th December 2010. After learning of Vincent Tabak’s arrest, the neighbour (who asked not to be named) told the Bristol Evening Post (22nd January 2011) about the cry for help, which he believed had come from the direction of Canynge Road and sounded like a female or a young child.
According to The Mirror, 1st January 2011, a font designer called Laurence Penney was a tenant in the neighbouring house belonging to Peter Stanley, 42 Canynge Road, which is the house closest to Joanna's flat. He had spent his Christmas holiday in France, so detectives did not interview him until he returned home on one of the last days of December. He told them: “I was here when Joanna Yeates disappeared but I didn’t see or hear anything.”
- When the jurors at Vincent Tabak’s trial visited Joanna Yeates’s flat on 12th October 2011, Counsel for the Defence William Clegg QC got them to stand at the places where the screams were heard, to suggest that they could not have been heard if they came from inside the flat. His defence was that they were not Joanna’s screams. However, the screams could have been hers if she had screamed in Canynge Road in the vicinity of No. 44.
- In Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’, the investigator sent the nurse into the dead woman’s room to carry out a scream test, but he couldn’t hear her screams until she tried screaming with the window open. Although Counsel for the Prosecution wanted the jury to believe that Joanna’s screams as she was being killed inside her flat could be heard in the street outside, Mr. Lickley did not send one of the female jurors into Joanna’s flat to scream for the other jurors to test his proposition objectively.
- Vincent Tabak testified at his trial that the sound insulation of the apartments at 44 Canynge Road was very good.
- After walking home from Tesco Express, Joanna would barely have had time before the screams were heard even to get through the front door of the flat, let alone get chased violently round the flat from room to room, spreading earrings, knickers and coats in all directions.
- A scream cannot be mistaken for a shout or high jinks.
What really happened that weekend?
- There is overwhelming evidence that it was her boyfriend who killed her.
- Although it is possible that she was killed on the Friday evening, it is more probable that the attack took place on the Saturday or the Sunday. The CPS may have known this, as they charged Vincent Tabak with killing her between 16th and 19th December 2010.
- The landlord saw and heard someone who might have been Joanna on her front path by the house together with two men during the weekend when she was killed, but the full details of his witness statements to the police have never been made public.
- Joanna’s body was bloodied and her nose fractured and bleeding, and there was blood on her hair, her T-shirt and the toe of her sock, and on a stone wall near where she was found. Although the initial attack on her may have taken place in her own flat, the failure of the Prosecution to produce any evidence in court of blood spatter in the flat (despite a massive and prolonged forensics effort) proves conclusively that she was strangled elsewhere. She probably fled from her attacker wearing only indoor clothes, clutching one sock in her hand.
- There are very strong indications that she planned to spend a significant part of the weekend with a secret, older, married lover, probably at her flat, but possibly elsewhere for part of the time. It was most probably to conceal the identity of this prominent and influential man that the police had to find a scapegoat and go to such great lengths to convict him.
- Only a very ruthless and detached lover would allow his rival in love to get away scot-free with killing his mistress while an innocent scapegoat serves a life sentence for the crime. If he were a Roman Catholic and had made her pregnant, then he had an additional incentive to want her dead, and he may have been an accessory to the crime. He could be, e.g., a senior police officer (her godfather was a detective sergeant), a prominent architect (whom she may have met at her graduation), an eminent lawyer, perhaps a judge, a prison governor, a member of the royal family, or a senior NATO officer, possibly from the USA.
- After she died, The Mail on Sunday (27th February 2011) revealed that Joanna had more than £40,000 saved up – an amount that the newspaper obviously considered astonishingly large for a young, newly-qualified landscape architect to have in her bank account. Had she earned this money in one of the ways that can lead a girl into serious trouble, such as blackmail, or even escort assignments? Was her move to 44 Canynyge Rd only 6 weeks earlier linked to this? Did her landlord see and hear her on her front path with high-profile clients whom she had brought back to her flat? Did he suspect her of taking money for sex and snoop on her to try to verify or dispel his suspicions?
- At the time of Joanna’s murder, her godfather Det Sgt Peter Yeates had been stealing mobile telephones from his then-employer, Dorset Police, and his wife was planning to divorce him. Describing his client’s abuses of his position as “irrational” at Peter Yeates’s trial at Portsmouth Crown Court in June 2013, Counsel for the Defence Ian Lawrie QC told the court: “It is hard to understand why he did these offences. He wasn’t financially hard pressed”. Sentencing the defendant to 34 weeks in prison, judge Ian Pearson accepted that Det Sgt Yeates had obtained only £10,671.35 from selling the devices he had stolen, and that he had had no accomplices. Were there far bigger stakes and more persons actually implicated in this highly “irrational” crime, including the ill-fated Joanna herself, than Dorset Police were prepared to allow to come out in court? Was Joanna blackmailing Peter Yeates? Or were they both victims of a criminal or a gang whom DS Yeates had crossed in the course of his police career?
During his account of the Sunday evening when he found Joanna missing, her boyfriend made some observations about her habits:
- “I thought she had been quite lazy...it was a niggle.”
- “I was quite annoyed that I had not been told what her plans were and she had not got back to me.”
- “It was a bad habit of Jo’s to open drinks and leave them. I came in and I was slightly annoyed.”
Despite having told her friends that she had only vague plans for the weekend, Joanna did not accompany her devoted boyfriend to Sheffield for a family christening, but instead sent texts seeking the company of other men as soon as his back was turned. There could have been an innocent explanation for why she stayed in Bristol, but its failure to emerge publicly is evidence that she had secret plans that he could guess. She thereby gave him a strong motive for murder, namely jealousy.
|44 Canynge Road, Clifton|
On 23rd December 2010, suspiciously quickly after Joanna’s disappearance, DCI Gareth Bevan publicly drew the conclusion that the presence of her coat, bag, keys, mobile telephone and pizza receipt suggested that she had got back to her flat. He manipulatively omitted to mention the alternative scenario, namely, that these items could have been placed in the flat subsequently by an abductor whose presence there would not arouse suspicion, i.e., Greg Reardon, without her ever having reached the flat. He would have done this if he had been lurking in wait for her when she came home from the Bristol Ram pub. Making it appear that Joanna had got back to the flat by placing her things there instead of disposing of them would throw suspicion on to the house’s other occupants.
|Convoy of pumping tenders mustering|
in Longwood Lane on Christmas day 2010
(Source: frame captured from ITN video)
|DCI Gareth Bevan|
The absence of Joanna’s right sock is one of the strongest indicators that her boyfriend caught her in flagrente delicto with her lover. If this had taken place in her flat on the Friday evening, then the pizza would have been found either in the flat or in her stomach. It seems much more probable that her boyfriend returned prematurely on the Saturday or earlier than she expected on the Sunday, to find her in the arms of her lover. The lover would have been in more of a hurry to dress than Joanna, as she did not expect to be going anywhere. It is possible that she announced to both of them that she was pregnant, and perhaps it was this that provoked Greg Reardon to become violent. Perhaps she taunted him. He probably assaulted her violently after sending her lover packing, causing her to flee the flat with one sock on her left foot and the other in her hand. He probably caught her as she tried to seek refuge in her car or a neighbouring house.
Greg Reardon had no alibi at all for the Sunday evening, though his alibi for the rest of the weekend has never been tested either, so he had the motive, means and opportunity to kill her. The lovers’ discretion about a weekend tryst would have made it easy for Joanna’s boyfriend to mislead everyone into believing that it had been Friday when she disappeared. The pathology of her body pointed to domestic violence. If Joanna were pregnant, as the moodiness at the Bristol Ram pub that the somewhat conflicting testimony of her colleagues suggests, this could have been a major contributory factor in the motivation of her killer. Her enthusiasm for the cider, however, lends weight to the proposition that the black bag she carried contained a pregnancy testing kit.
At the trial of Vincent Tabak, Greg Reardon described finding a scene of disorder in the flat on his return from Sheffield. The jury was shown a sketch he had made for the police shortly afterwards, showing the various items that he claimed to have found out of place, and, in most cases, to have tidied up, before the police and Joanna’s parents arrived. However, this disorder was never reported publicly at the time, and some of the early reports of her disappearance specifically mentioned that no signs of a struggle were found in the flat. Vincent Tabak’s denial under cross-examination that any struggle had taken place was one of the two main factors that turned the jury against him, and it seems probable that he was deliberately kept unaware of the disorder allegedly found in the flat when he signed his “enhanced statement”. The flat could really have become disorderly in the course of an actual struggle between Joanna, her boyfriend, and (possibly) her lover, or the disorder could have been invented prior to the trial to help convict the scapegoat of murder.
Despite protracted and minute examination, no forensic evidence of anyone in the flat who should not have been there was presented by the prosecution. If Vincent Tabak’s DNA had been found there, the jury would certainly have been told. If the lover’s DNA were found there, the jury would certainly not have been told about it.
Joanna’s lover would have realised what had happened within hours of her death. He and Greg Reardon must have moved fast to exploit the power that each had over the other. The lover would not want his wife nor the rest of the world to know about his part in a murder. The two men must have negotiated what to do, and it cannot be ruled out that the lover helped dump her body. The knowledge that Joanna was dead by her boyfriend’s hand must have reached senior police officers on 21st or 22nd December 2010, when the video appeal that featured him was removed from the internet. By this time police already had Vincent Tabak’s first witness statement, and their decision to make him the scapegoat was probably taken soon afterwards.
Right from the day on which she was reported missing, the police investigation into Joanna’s fate was codenamed “Operation Braid”, after a video game about a man searching for a princess who has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster. Avon & Somerset Constabulary’s Director of Corporate Communications used her publicity machine to turn Joanna Yeates into an iconic “Princess Diana” victim, so that no slander and humiliation was too bad to be heaped on the wretched scapegoat convicted of killing her. Joanna’s soul will not find peace so long as an innocent, civilised and courteous engineer continues to be the recipient of all evils, deprivations and degradations as a result of her death.