Pathologist's Views

Dr Vanezis, the pathologist who examined the bodies had not detailed a time of death for any of the deceased in his report. He provided the police with statements written long after the post-mortem, the first during September and others during November 1985 and May 1986 when

he used his notes and scene photographs to assist him. The Dickinson review then requested that he write an additional report post trial and the extracts below are taken from this report which appears to be much more candid and in favour of the Defence than his pre-trial statements. 

Regarding his initial examinations he stated: 

“Sheila had suffered two gunshot wounds. I was a little concerned with this but in my experience, bearing in mind the low velocity of the weapon, whilst unusual, suicide with two shots does occur. I have experienced four or five in the past. In order to consider this a possibility, however, I must have been impressed by the information given to me as to position of the weapon, length of barrel and the ability of Sheila to reach the trigger. I had been told it was a semi-automatic weapon. The result of my P.M. examination of Sheila was 'death due to gunshot wounds'. My examination did not reveal anything to contradict the suicide theory and I must say, although I could not from my examination, confirm murder or suicide” 

The post mortem’s continued the following day and Dr Peter Vanezis further states: 

“Having discussed the number of shots involved (24) I was told the magazine could hold at least eight cartridges. Sheila was a farmer's daughter and would have been used to firearms. I drew no serious consequence from the number of shots fired.” 

When DS Stan Jones later asked him some time later what he thought about it being a murder/suicide he wrote: 

“Whilst respecting his views there was nothing impressive about what he said and certainly I cannot recall anything of evidential substance to the effect that Sheila could not have done it.” 

Dr Vanezis continues: 

“I then discussed the two possibilities: If it wasn't Sheila it had to be Jeremy. We went over the information and I expressed the views that Jeremy would have to be a nutter to have done what had occurred, in that he must have had such a warped state of mind to engineer it in the manner in which it was presented. This was almost too incredible to believe. Additionally, in order to stage manage Sheila she would probably need to be under the influence of drugs. I said that I would ascertain the results of the drug analysis with regard to that point before completing my report.” 

The drug analysis came back negative, apart from the tests showing a reduced dose of Haloperidol, a treatment for Schizophrenia, and a trace of Cannabis taken some four days earlier. Sheila had not been sedated. In support of Dr Vanezis views, Jeremy Bamber had no history of violence, has never had any mental illness, and does not have any psychopathic traits as shown in 27 different assessments. Sheila Caffell on the other hand, was delusional, volatile, suicidal and “could use physical aggression directed to property, herself or others” As detailed by her Psychologist, her boyfriend and other witnesses who gave police statements. 

It is unclear why the views expressed by the pathologist shifted in this report which seems to suggest that he was later influenced by the information provided by police. He also described one of the bullets in Sheila Caffell's body as "Fragmented" but Malcolm Fletcher the Ballistics expert for the prosecution describes it as whole which is how it was presented at trial. Read more about Sheila's X-Ray's and the fragmented bullet here. Dr Vanezis also stated that SOCO officers took hand swabs from both Sheila Caffell and Nevill Bamber but none of the SOCO officers admitted to taking swabs from Nevill. Later the hand swabs taken from Sheila Caffell were rejected by the lab, when they returned they bore a different exhibit reference number and only very low levels of lead were detected, suggesting that Sheila had possibly handled the weapon but not fired it. This became key prosecution evidence. Why were the exhibit reference numbers for the swabs altered and what became of the hand swabs from Nevill Bamber which were never allocated an exhibit reference? Many of the key exhibits had altered reference numbers including the sound moderator and hacksaw blade. 

Recent testimony from forensic ballistics expert Philip Boyes proves that gunshot residue which would have discharged onto Sheila Caffell's hands when she fired the gun was easily and simply wiped away on cloth or clothing without any need for washing. This meant that Sheila had very low levels of lead when her hands were tested. The low levels of lead on Sheila's hands is not a valid part of the prosecution's case and never was. 

Professor Peter Vanezis is now a Home Office Pathologist.