The Strange Case of Jeremy Bamber

Andy McSmith

Untitled 121 300x171 The Strange Case of Jeremy BamberThe story of Jeremy Bamber, who is court this week hoping to prove that he has been imprisoned for over 25 years for crimes that he did not commit, is almost the polar opposite of the normal cases of miscarriage of justice.

I came upon his case 16 years ago, when I discovered from a document released in Parliament that he was one of a small number of prisoners serving life sentences who had been told that they would never be released.  (The report was in The Observer, 26 February 1995, but I don’t think it can be accessed via Google). Afterwards, I had a call from Bamber’s solicitor, who was seeking to have his ‘whole life’ sentence reversed in a European court. I thought it surprising that he should go to this trouble when Bamber was reportedly proclaiming his innocence and expecting to be released imminently. What I gleaned from this conversation was that Bamber’s own legal representative did not believe him and did not expect the jury’s verdict to be overturned.

There is standard pattern to most well known miscarriage of justice cases. A sensational crime takes place, there is an outcry, the police are under heavy pressure to make a quick arrest, they alight on someone who either has a criminal record or is a bit odd and vulnerable, wring a confession out of him if they can, and for years afterwards, devoted relatives and friends and high-minded lawyers and others campaign to have a guilty verdict overturned. None of this applies in the Bamber case.

If the police had wanted to frame someone for murder, they could have found an easier victim than Jeremy Bamber, who was a self-confident, strong willed, well educated youth, blessed with striking good looks, and eminently capable of fighting his corner. Anyway, the police were under no pressure to hunt the culprit after five members of the Bamber family were found shot dead in an Essex farm on 7 August 1985, because the case was solved before they arrived. Jeremy Bamber told them that he had had a phone call from the house to say that his adoptive sister, Sheila, was running amok with a gun. All the sensational publicity that surrounded the case at the time repeated the story that Sheila Bamber, who suffered from mental illness, had shot her parents, her two six year old sons, and then killed herself.

The first to cast doubt on this story was a relative, David Boutflour, who searched the house and found a silencer hidden away, with blood on it. It was unlikely that a demented mother who had killed her own children would have put it there. Then Bamber’s girlfriend came forward and told the police that Bamber had committed all five murders because he hated his adoptive parents and wanted their money. Sheila’s ex-husband, Colin Caffell, who had imagined that Bamber was as much in grief and shock as he was, was also persuaded that the truth was much more sinister. He has written a moving book In Search of the Rainbow’s End about the loss of his two six year old boys, in which he included the text of a rather nasty letter, written entirely in block capitals, that Bamber wrote to him from prison. It does not appear that anyone who knew Jeremy Bamber when he was at liberty believes in his innocence.

A detail often overloooked is that the twin boys who were murdered did not live at the farm. Because of their mother’s illness, they were being brought up by their father, who allowed them to visit their grandparents. A few days before the killings, Bamber visited Colin Caffell with the apparent aim of checking when the boys would be there. If they had not been killed, Jeremy Bamber would not have been the sole heir to the family fortune.

There is another rather creepy detail in Caffell’s book, that he later came to believe that Jeremy Bamber was studying him in the immediate aftermath of the murders to see how someone genuinely grief stricken behaved, in order to mimic him.

A court will have to decide this week whether Bamber is really a very wronged man, the victim of a conspiracy by his family, his girlfriend, and the police, as The Observer appears to believe, or whether he might be a dangerous psychopath who murdered three adults and two young children for money and has never displayed a scintilla of remorse. I hope they weigh the evidence carefully.

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  • Benjamin Barton

    Typo’s aside, unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that he committed this crime, then surely he shouldn’t be in prison.

  • Bob

    Andy McSmith, do you also write for the Grauniad? Set aside a bit more time to check your work for typographical errors and grammar man.

  • Steve Lane

    Well Andy. What a very odd article. According to the Observer and Bamber’s current legal team they have uncovered evidence including police photographs and police witness statements that suggest that Bamber was very likely framed by the police and others. Obviously his former solicitor had not uncovered the evidence that his current legal team has and that he clearly served Bamber ill. After all, the evidence recently uncovered existed then but he could not be bothered to look for it. Perhaps, because of the outrageous fees solicitors can charge, he thought might never get paid. So justice came off second best. It seems to me that you could not be bothered to do any research into the current state of play before wasting your ink.
    To be honest I expect better from the journalists at the Independent.

  • Ciaran Rehill

    Yes, dear, it is called FITTING UP or FRAMING. Sean Hodgson, Stefan Kiska, Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Cardiff Three, an obscene version of the “12 days of Christmas”. I’d love to live in Andyworld where coppers are all like P.C George Dixon and we all walk down Lollipop Lane.

  • Zaph Beeble

    He was tried and it was proven beyond reasonable doubt. If there is fresh evidence that was not available to the defence that is a different matter. First it must be proved that there is fresh evidence and then there must be a new trial.

  • toomanyairmiles

    That’s not strictly accurate, the debate seems to circle around what the jury were told about the silencer, whether the silencer caused scratches on the aga at the time of the murder and why the crime scene was re staged and re photographed since the rifle appears in in several different positions. This appeal is not based on new evidence and won’t point to innocence or guilt but simply determine if the conviction is safe. The court of appeal could request a retrial.

  • Jonan

    Andy , woeful reporting , why do you think the police withhold so much evidence ? Obviously nothing to hide there . Then can you explain to me why Sheila’s blood is wet seven hour’s after she was supposedly killed ? I could go on , but do your reader’s a service and look at the evidence yourself and try and pick hole’s in it , i don’t think we will hear you comment on this subject again after today

  • Dorothea

    And here you all are, trying to decide the case before it comes to court. Exactly the actions that allow criminals to claim that they have not received a fair trial: so much public discussion of their case that a jury cannot claim to be impartial.


    Maybe he was tried all those years ago and found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, but that was back then and most of the evidence would not stand up in a modern court. Too much of the polices stories and evidence doesn’t add up.
    The first officers on the scene (with jeremy), saw someone walk past the upstairs window. Some of the firearms squad were talking to a person in the kitchen. The first officers to gain entry to the house recorded two bodies on the floor, 1 male and 1 female.
    This was recorded by about three or more officers, so how did sheilas body end up upstairs with her mothers, later on in the morning.
    Too many things don’t add up.
    I’m not saying he is totally innocent but i do think this case needs to be reopened and i do believe that in a modern day court, the case against jeremy bamber would not stand up on the evidence given by the officers back in 1985.
    They basically found him guilty because of a silencer, that wasnt found by the police but suddenly turned up 3 days after they left, and because his ex told the police that he did it, even though she was fuming with him cos he cheated on her.
    There is not one bit of solid evidence against him.
    I for one hope he gets a retrial and then i think he will be totally acquitted.

  • idle4

    I for one am with Mr McSmith. I certainly believe there are innocent people in gaol, I do not believe that Bamber is one of them. The weight of evidence, albeit circumstancial, is overwhelmingly against Bamber. I do not beleive there is any new evidence, he is simply attempting to put a new twist on old evidence. But mainly he is trying to discredit the (shoddy) police investigation to the extent that the conviction is judged unsafe. I also hope the court weigh his latest appeal very carefully.

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