Defence Case

Last updated 15.01.13 
The events

As in many cases of tragic shooting incidents, Sheila Caffell, experiencing a psychotic episode, took the .22 Anschutz rifle and killed her family, beating Nevill with the butt of the rifle after he had been shot. Police message logs have surfaced which show that Nevill was able to telephone the police prior to his death[6], and also managed to get through to Jeremy[7]. At some point during the early hours of 7 August 1985, Sheila turned the gun on herself.

Sheila Caffell, Jeremy’s sister, had been discharged from St Andrews Mental Health Hospital in Northampton and was staying at the farmhouse with her parents and twin sons on 7 August 1985[2].  Her medication had been reduced and she had been smoking cannabis[3].  She became upset that her parents had suggested earlier in the evening that she should consider having the children fostered while she got back on her feet[4].  Sheila had split from her husband Colin and life as a single parent with a mental illness had been challenging.

June’s sister, Pamela Boutflour, had called the farm that evening along with Nevill Bamber’s secretary and both said that things sounded strained on the phone as if an argument had been taking place[5].  June told Pamela that Sheila had been unresponsive that day also. 

As in many cases of tragic shooting incidents, Sheila Caffell, experiencing a psychotic episode, took the .22 Anshutz rifle and killed her family, beating Nevill with the butt of the rifle after he had been shot.  Police message logs have surfaced which show that Nevill was able to telephone the police prior to his death[6], and also managed to get through to Jeremy[7].  At some point during the early hours of 8 August 1985, Sheila turned the gun on herself.  

Sheila was still alive in the house when the police arrived, as movement in the upstairs window was spotted by two police officers[8], who arrived outside the farmhouse just before 4am[9].  Sheila’s body was then seen by an officer downstairs in the kitchen through the window[10].  Police were in conversation with someone inside the farmhouse at around 5.25am[11].  It was reported that Sheila’s body was in the kitchen when the tactical firearms group broke into the house after 7.30am[12].  This story later changed and Sheila’s body had ‘officially’ been found upstairs in the bedroom.   

Sheila moving inside the house 

It is possible that Sheila Caffell had shot herself once and was possibly unconscious in the kitchen when the firearms officers broke into the kitchen.  Somehow, officers missed that she was still alive and continued to search the house, but called after her when they heard noises upstairs[13]

There were three staircases inside White House Farm. It is quite possible that Sheila could have fled upstairs where she took her own life by firing a second shot under her chin which killed her outright.  The police photographs of Sheila with wet blood still running from her wounds were taken at 10:20am[14], and prove that she could not have died prior to 4am, when Jeremy Bamber was waiting outside with police officers. 

The fact that officers waited three and a half hours before breaking down the door suggests that they were convinced that someone inside the farmhouse was still alive as late as 7.30am.  This argument is also supported by the fact that three ambulances were called to the scene[15]

Members of the jury were clearly influenced by the story of Julie Mugford but they were unable to reach a verdict after hearing her evidence, so the judge asked them if they wanted to hear any other evidence which might help them decide[16].  After hearing the evidence relating to the sound moderator again, they convicted Jeremy Bamber on a majority verdict of ten to two.  Julie Smerchanski (formerly Julie Mugford) was already waiting in a hotel to sign paperwork on a deal with the News of the World to publish a story on Jeremy, which she had already promised to them upon a guilty verdict.[17] 

 

Notes



[1] Mr Malcolm Bonnett’s Log, apparently taken at Chelmsford HQ, 7th August 1985. The CCRC dispute the entry claiming that the defence lawyers misdirected themselves in believing this was a reference to Sheila Caffell in the house because the person referred to is Jeremy Bamber, but he is always referred to in all scene logs as ‘informant, the son, Jeremy Bamber or Mr Bamber.’

[2] Dr Ferguson, Sheila’s psychiatrist, collected statements, 1985-6.

[3] Allan, Toxicologist, 4 October 1985 statement.

[4] Sheila’s GP, who administered her medication, 20 September 1985 statement.

[5] Pamela Boutflour, 12 August 1985 statement; David Boutflour, undated City of London Police, draft statement; Barbara Wilson, 12 September 1985 statement.

[6] Nevill Bamber’s call to police, 3:26, recorded on a log by Malcolm Bonnet, civilian police worker based at control room, Springfield, Chelmsford HQ, to take 999 calls and IR radio operation.

[7] Jeremy Bamber’s call recorded on a log by PC West at Witham Station, timed at 3:26.  Discrepancies show that separate calls were made by Nevill and Jeremy.  There are seven different versions of the log relating to Jeremy’s call.

[8] PC Bews noted movement in the window, trial transcript, 3 October 1986.

[9] PC Bews noted arrival times, trial transcript, 3 October 1986.

[10] PC Laurence Collins reported that he saw the body of a woman through the kitchen window to other officers.  There were no curtains or nets present so he had a clear view, but there is no mention of woman’s body in his statement, although it does appear in PC Hall’s statement of 2 October 1986, and APS John Manners’s statement of 23 October 1985.  The Dickinson report contains PS Christopher Bews’s statement extract. ‘Details of their search was relayed over the radio that they had found a body in the kitchen, I believed they said female’, 7:39 entry, A Review of the Bamber Killings Investigation by James A Dickinson, Detective Chief Superintendent (cited hereafter as Dickinson Review) handwritten undated.  Collected scene logs state that more than one body was found in the kitchen, 7 August 1985. One Dead Male and One dead Female, Two bodies, One dead male, one dead female, further three bodies found upstairs, one dead male and one dead female

[11] IR radio log, Chelmsford HQ, 7th August 1985.

[12] Collected scene logs, reporting two bodies downstairs, three upstairs, 7 August 1985.

[13] PC Hall, 2 October 1985 statement.

[14] DC Bird, 24 October 1985 statement.  DC Bird began photography in the kitchen and then moved straight upstairs.  Scene photographs show bedside clock at 10:20am.

[15] Nine paramedics present.  Statements: Taylor, 1 October 1985; Simpson, 1 October 1985; Keating, 4 October 1985; Dolphin, 4 October 1985; Skegt, 4 October 1985; Chesney, 5 October 1985; Wannerton, 2 October 1985; Willis, 7 October 1985; Nottage, 8 October 1985.

[16] Mr Justice Drake, trial transcript, 24 October 1985.

[17] Julie Mugford, 11 April 2002 statement.