Nevill's Call to Police

Arguably the cornerstone of the flawed prosecution case to convict Jeremy Bamber involved phone calls made on the night of the tragedy, specifically from Jeremy to police and from Nevill to Jeremy. Nevill’s call to police is cast iron proof that Jeremy was not, and could not have been responsible for the deaths. Read on to discover the details of Nevill's call to report his daughter’s psychotic episode and how attempts were made to smother the fact the call was ever made.







 

The missing phone call Nevill Bamber made to the police. Last updated 06.11.15

by S Hanover, J Martin-Adams and Y Hartley.

One of the big mysteries in this case, which has always been harmful to Jeremy’s testimony, was the prosecution argument that Nevill Bamber did not call the police. This is featured in the Daily Mirror article of 5 August 2010. Jeremy has always claimed that his father called him before calling the police, and then he, in turn, also called the police[1]

Nevill Bamber did indeed call the police during the early hours of 7 August 1985 – view the police transcript of Nevill's call here and the transcript of Jeremy's call here. As you can see, there are two phone logs showing clearly that two separate phone calls were made. Yet, at the trial in 1986, the members of the jury were led to believe that only one call was made . . . by Jeremy. 

Why did Nevill Bamber’s call remain secret for so long? Consider the following set of questions and answers, which help to unravel the mystery of the ‘missing’ call: 


Question: It looks as though one log is simply a copy of the other, meaning that both logs refer to Jeremy’s call. Is this the case? 

No. The logs are rolling documents, meaning that they are updated as events unfold. This is not apparent on first glance – the handwriting looks as though it has all been written down in one go. However, both of these logs were started when the calls were made, information passed on, and then added to throughout the morning. For example, the Essex Police Communications log (for Nevill’s call) shows ‘mobiles dispatched to the scene’ (mobiles being police vehicles). It shows that three police cars were dispatched, and the time that each arrived, and also that three police tactical firearms vehicles were dispatched, and the time that each of those arrived. It is also evident this is a rolling log as information regarding the later telephone call made by Jeremy, the information regarding guns in the house and the fact it is detailed “03:56 – GPO have checked phone line to farmhouse and confirm phone left off hook”, clearly shows that the log is a gradually evolving document, updated as the events unfold. 

Question: If it really was Nevill who made this call, why does the log refer to Jeremy? 

In the log relating to Nevill’s call, the sentence which confuses people is ‘message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber after the phone went dead, Mr Bamber has a collection of shotguns and .410’s’. 

This statement has misled some into believing (a) that this log refers to the call made by Jeremy, not Nevill, and also (b) that Jeremy mentioned ‘shotguns and .410s’ during the call. However, in the call made by Jeremy, there was no word in the log of him mentioning which firearms were at White House Farm. 

The sentence ‘message passed to CD by the son of Mr Bamber after the phone went dead” was added to Malcolm Bonnett’s log after information was passed to him some minutes after starting his log when he received information that PC West had received a further telephone call from Jeremy regarding the same incident.  The line  “Mr Bamber has a collection of shotguns and .410’s’”  was added to the log later on after the officer in car CA07 contacted headquarters by radio to explain that Nevill’s son had given PC Steve Myall a list of firearms[2] after officers met him outside the farmhouse. Thus, the log was updated with the new information as Malcolm Bonnett received it. The next page of Jeremy’s call (West’s log) suggests that Jeremy had told PC West on the phone that there were guns at the farm, the authenticity of this log is in question, but the line above in Bonnett’s log was an addition not the original message clearly. The Log of Jeremy’s call was not shown to the jury and was not an exhibit at trial. The Log of the telephone call received by PC West from Nevill Bamber at 03:26 has never been disclosed to the Defence.

Question: how and why was it possible for the prosecution to argue that only one call was made (by Jeremy)? 

1. The C1 log relating to Jeremy’s call (written by PC West) was not shown to the jury. It existed in the ‘material exhibits file’ and not the ‘exhibits list’, meaning that it was not given an exhibit reference at the trial.[3] There are now several different copies with various alterations, which are currently being investigated. 

2. The above statement (‘message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber’) enabled the prosecution to claim that the one log available to the jury (referring to Nevill’s call) actually referred to the call made by Jeremy [4]. The members of the jury were completely unaware that Nevill Bamber had made a separate call. 

3. The log relating to Nevill’s call states ‘message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber after the phone went dead’. This line allowed the prosecution to argue that this log was started because a call from Jeremy was passed from one office to another [5]. In other words, they argued that this log relates only to Jeremy’s call. In reality, the line ‘message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber’ was added to the log later on after Jeremy had contacted PC West some 10 minutes after the initial call from Nevill. Therefore, the statement ‘message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber’ has nothing to do with the original telephone conversation between PC West and Nevill but   refers to new information being passed to Bonnett after the second telephone call, this one made by Jeremy.
 

4. Audio recordings of both calls have failed to materialise (see below). 

The emergence of the second log in March 2004 (the one referring to Jeremy’s call, written by PC West) confirms that two separate calls were made to the police, and the following table outlines clear differences between the two:  
   

  

 

 

Nevill’s call

 

 

Jeremy’s call

Address of caller

White House Farm, Tolleshunt D’Arcy

Head Street, Goldhanger

Telephone number

860209

88645

Reference to Sheila

‘daughter’ (26 yrs old) has gone ‘berserk’

My ‘sister’ (27 yrs old) has gone ‘crazy’

Details of firearms

Daughter has ‘got hold of one of my guns’.  Details of shotguns and .410s in the farmhouse.

Sister has got ‘the gun’.

Action taken

Car CA07 dispatched 3.35am

Car CA05 dispatched 3.36am

Time of call

Malcolm Bonnett records the time of the call as 3.26am.

PC 1990 West records the time of this call as 3.36am


Question: Was it not possible for Jeremy to have made both calls if they were several minutes apart? In other words, could he have called the police from White House Farm, pretending to be his father, and then gone home and called the police as himself? 

No. It is not possible to get from White House Farm to Jeremy’s house (Head Street, Goldhanger) in less than ten minutes without going by car on the main roads[7]. Jeremy’s car remained outside his house until he went to meet the police outside White House Farm. All of the roads were accounted for and no one appears to have seen Jeremy or his car or anyone suspicious along the route from his home to White House Farm. This is why the prosecution’s case was that Jeremy had cycled across three miles of farmland, on his mother’s bicycle, in the dark to carry out the murders[8]. Furthermore, if Jeremy had called the police claiming to be his father, it would have been easy to prove that both calls were made by the same man as all police calls were recorded onto audio tape (see below) and the police could have used the recordings to prove that the same voice was on both tapes. 

Question: Why was the log referring to Jeremy’s call never shown to the jury? 

PC 1990 West at Chelmsford Police Station (CD) took both Nevill’s call and Jeremy’s call. Following Nevill’s call PC West relayed the information he had been given by Nevill to  Malcolm Bonnett, a civilian telephone operative, who worked in the Information room at HQ and car CA 7 was dispatched to the scene at 03:35am. After receiving a second call about the same incident, this time from Jeremy, PC West informed Malcolm Bonnett of Jeremy’s call[9] and this was added to Malcolm Bonnett’s log: “message passed to CD by son of Mr Bamber”.  In his witness statement of 13 September Malcolm Bonnett stated that the information he received regarding the call from Nevill was at 03:26am. These two separate telephone calls, the first by Nevill at 03:26am and the second made by Jeremy at 03:36 am were then merged to give the appearance that only one call was received. The judge put in his summing up that Mr Bonnett may well have recorded the wrong time on the log sheet. [10] 

The call timings remain a grey area because PC West maintained in one statement – which was undisclosed to the defence before the trial – that he wrote down the time as 3:36, but, in his later statement on 13 September – which was disclosed – he claims that he could have made a mistake and was therefore uncertain if he wrote down the time as 3:36 or 3:26. [11] When charged with altering his log during the City of London Police (COLP) investigation in 1991[12], West maintained that he wrote down the time as 3:36 when Jeremy called him. It cannot be possible that West, at 3.36, took the only call the police received, because Malcolm Bonnett's C6 log (and court testimony) confirms that he received information regarding a call to PC West at 3:26. The 2002 Appeal judgement notes that Jeremy’s call must have come at 3:26, which would suggest that West’s log was a fabrication: if PC West had simply made a mistake, then his original log would have read 3:26 and not 3:36. In other words, either West’s C1 log is a manuscript copy (and, therefore, a fabrication [13]) or he made a mistake, but if he made a mistake, his log would still read 3:26, which it does not. This presents a very grave situation because a man is serving a whole life sentence on the strength of the police timings. 

Question: If all emergency calls were recorded, what happened to the tapes? 

Malcolm Bonnett claimed in his 16 December statement that all police calls were recorded onto audio tape [14]. According to a letter from the ICO, Essex Police destroyed the audio tapes after twenty-eight days[15]. This was probably standard practice unless the defence team requested the tapes, but Jeremy was not arrested until after this twenty-eight day period had expired. However, documents released to the defence team show that tapes of the calls were copied after 12 September 1985 (action 146)[16]. This action was carried out, and was recorded on report number 123, which is also dated 12 September 1985[17]. Although these tapes were supposed to have been destroyed on 7 September, this could not have occurred since copies were made of these calls after this date.

Had members of the jury been allowed to hear the tapes, the voices would have been sufficiently different from one another to prove that two calls were made – one by Nevill and one by Jeremy. The copies of the tapes must still exist, as a written record must accompany the destruction of any exhibit, but no such record exists. Could these tapes be part of a collection of documents held under public interest immunity? [18] 

Question: Why did the police dispatch more than one car? 


The police dispatched two cars in response to two calls about the incident. Why would the same police officer make two different records of a call from the same person, at different times, referring to details passed to him about the caller’s ‘daughter’ in one, and the caller’s ‘sister’, in the other, and then dispatch two different police vehicles to the scene, when both calls clearly related to the same incident? 

The patrol car, which overtook Jeremy en route to the farmhouse that morning (CA07) was responding to the call made by Nevill. CA07 could not have been responding to the call made by Jeremy because the log shows that it was dispatched at 3.35am – one minute before Jeremy apparently made his call to the police at 3:36am. This anomaly was apparently commented upon during the judgement at the 2002 appeal [19]. 

Note that the second patrol car, CA05, was dispatched to respond to the call made by Jeremy at 3:36am, as verified by the fact that these details are recorded in the message log relating to Jeremy's call (‘Dispatched CA05 to scene’). 

Question: How could Jeremy have called the police if Nevill really had called him? The phone was off the hook at White House Farm and would still have been connected to Jeremy’s line, making him unable to make another call from his phone. 

Nevill called Jeremy before he called the police. Jeremy claims that during Nevill’s call to him, the line ‘went dead’ [20]. If a line goes ‘dead’, it means that someone has either hung up or the line has been disconnected, so it could not have been left ‘off the cradle’. When Jeremy tried to call Nevill back, he kept getting the engaged tone because Nevill was either trying to phone the police, or had already got through to Malcolm Bonnett. With Nevill’s line out of action, Jeremy opted to make his own call to the police, and got through to PC West. Later on, the police asked an operator to check the line at White House Farm, and the operator confirmed that at that stage, the handset was off its cradle, a rustling noise was audible, and a dog could be heard barking [21]. This means that Nevill left the phone off the cradle after his call to PC 1990 West, not his call to Jeremy. 

Notes 

[1] Jeremy Bamber, Statement, 7 August 1985. 

[2] AT-07-4, PC Steve Myall, Pocketbook entry states that JB told him the weapons in the house while he was with him at the scene, JB then produced a plan stating Sheila’s age as 27, as written on the West Log, contrasting with Bonnett’s log which shows that Nevill told police Sheila was 26 

[3] AP-04-05 West’s Original Log C1 [CPS Material Exhibits File – Pages 255-258], AJ-16-27, Trial Document27, - Final List of Exhibits 23 October 1986, C1 Log is not present. 

[4] Ibid, exhibit 29 is Malcolm Bonnett’s log which suggests he wrote down a call from Nevill Bamber on a C6 Log. 

[5]Malcom Bonnett, Trial Transcript, 2 October 1986. 

[6] Op Cit, n2 

[7] Wilkinson, 17 October 1985 statement, recorded that the journey from White House Farm to Goldhanger took him thirty-five minutes, via the sea wall in daylight. R v Bamber, records the shortest route via bicycle to be fifteen minutes long, again in daylight. 

[8] There are no records of any witnesses seeing anyone on the possible routes between WHF and Goldhanger during the times it was alleged J Bamber had left the scene. See R v Bamber, Appeal Judgement 2002, para 145. 

[9]Malcolm Bonnett states (trial transcript) that he took 999 calls at HQ. He claims that he took a call from another officer 'relating to an incident at White House Farm', but the details on his C6 log (shown in the grid above) suggest that Nevill Bamber might have called him directly, or that there were two calls made by PC West who were relayed to him Nevill's call and then Jeremy's call - noted as a rolling log. 

[10] Trial Transcript, summing up, 21 October, 1986, pg 67. 

[11] PC West, Statement, 13th September. 

[12] PC West charged with altering a police telephone log, 14 March 1991, City of London Police. 

[13] PC West’s C1 log. A total of seven different copies exist, with various additions and alterations including the spelling of words. The CCRC has used its powers under s17 of the Criminal Appeals Act (detailed in their letter of the 13th of January 2012,) to obtain the original document, but it cannot be located. 

[14] Malcolm Bonnett, 16 September 1985 statement. 

[15] Letter from Information Commissioners Office to Defence, 31 May 2007, suggesting that it is ‘highly probable’ that audio tapes of the calls made to Chelmsford police were destroyed. This remains inconclusive, in that copies were made, and no documentation recording destruction has been produced. 

[16] Essex Police Action report 146. 

[17] Essex Police Action report 123. 

[18] Letter from CCRC to Defence Solicitors, 28 July 2008, states that some of the material requested is held under Public Interest Immunity (PII). 

[19] Op cit, N10, summing up. 

[20] Jeremy Bamber, 7 August 1985 statement. 

[21]Noted on what is referred to as Malcolm Bonnett’s Log, also referred to as the ‘Radio Log, or the Essex Police Communications log’, 7 August 1985.