Single Gunshot Wound to Sheila

Was Sheila Caffell accidentally shot by firearms officers training at the scene?

written by Y.Hartley, on 11.01.20

On the morning of 7th August 1985 Essex police photographer DC Bird was responsible for taking the crime scene photographs. At approximately 10:20am he began to take images of Sheila Caffell in the main bedroom of White House Farm. It is evident that these images show at that time Sheila had suffered two gunshot wounds to her throat. The pathologist Professor Vanezis stated that although it was uncommon for people to kill themselves using two gunshots, whilst unusual, suicide with two shots does occur[1]. However, documents have come to light which raise serious concern about the gunshot injuries sustained by Sheila. Was Sheila initially discovered by police with one gunshot wound? Did officers accidentally set off the gun when they were carrying out training exercises moving the gun on and off the body to make it safe? This would explain why evidence shows requests for so many extra teams of firearms officers to be drafted into the house AFTER the scene had been entered and made safe at 7.40am by the initial team of police.

Reported in news articles on the 9th and 10th of August 1985 it was stated that:[2] “Mrs Caffell was killed by a single gunshot from under the chin into her brain. Other tests confirmed she fired the weapon.”

Close analysis of witness statements has revealed an abundance of material that appears to clarify that Sheila had originally sustained a single wound.

At 08:13am on the morning of 7th August 1985 Chief Superintendent Harris, the Divisional Commander, and Chief Inspector Gibbons saw Sheila in the main bedroom. In their witness statements they describe how Sheila appeared when they saw her. CSI Harris gave evidence[3]:

” A .22 rifle was lying along Mrs Caffell’s body, the barrel of which was resting just below an entry wound beneath her chin.”

Chief Inspector Gibbons recorded he saw[4]:

“a younger female with a wound to her throat.”

It may be easy to assume that these very senior officers, and thus experienced, could have been mistaken about the number of wounds they saw to Sheila’s neck area, but this appears not to have been the case.

At 08:25am Police Surgeon Dr Ian Craig entered the house and recorded in his witness statement, written on the morning of the 7th August 1985, that he made the following observation[5]:

“There was what appeared to be an entry wound in the throat.”

In 1986 during the Dickinson Enquiry Dr Craig went further and informed DCI Dickinson[6]:

I only saw one gunshot wound at that stage.”

Doctor Craig only saw Sheila in the main bedroom of the house and did not see her at any other time.

Essex Police officers DS 21, Stanley Brian Jones and DI Robert Miller entered the house together at 09:15am. DI Miller recorded in a report dated 15th August[7]:

The wound appeared to have been made by her own hand.”

DS 21 Jones made no reference to any wounds in his witness statements until 1991 and then informed the City of London Police Enquiry that when he attended the house the following day with pathologist Dr Vanezis he was surprised to be told Sheila had suffered two gunshot wounds. He told the City of London Police[8]:

Up to that point I thought there had been only one.”

PC 995, Norman Henry Wright was the Coroners Officer who provided information for the official coroner’s report dated 9th August 1985. This report states[9]:

“The appearance suggested in the case of Sheila Caffell the wound had been inflicted by her own hand.”

So we have the evidence from six individuals who were first to observe the deceased, including a Chief Superintendent, a Chief Inspector, a Detective Inspector, a Detective Sergeant, a Coroner’s Officer and a highly experienced Police Surgeon who all gave evidence that when they saw the body of Sheila in the main bedroom, prior to photographs being taken, they observed Sheila had only sustained one gunshot wound.

It is a fact that scenes of crime officers who arrived at the house at approximately 09:15am were prevented access to the house for 45 minutes and only allowed in after 10:00am.

Documented evidence from a scene log and from two documents from DCI Dickinson’s investigation supports that “informatives” or training exercises were being conducted at this time[10]. No documents have ever been disclosed to the defence that establish what actions took place during the training exercises within the house with the bodies in situ.

Those who attended the scene that day are as follows: Sixty-two (62) Police Officers, eight (8) Paramedics, a Divisional Commander from the Ambulance Service, a Doctor, two (2) undertakers, two (2) builders and Jeremy Bamber. Of these, 47 police officers and 5 civilians entered the house. If the house had been made safe after the intital raid at 7.40pm then why was a transit van called to arrive at 8.57am containing a senior officer and 6 further FSU, so 7 FSU in total?

The non disclosure of case material, including a substantial number of crime scene photographs and witness statements has impeded the defence in being able to establish a consistent chain of events throughout the morning. Officers who are now known to have attended the scene and to have entered the main bedroom have been hidden from the defence, and their existence only become known from references to them in fingerprint forms etc. Why did Essex Police attempt to hide the involvement of these officers? Why are there so many undisclosed crime scene photographs? Do they show the faces of officers who were in attendance? Why are so many witness statements missing from the disclosed material? The CPS are aware of the extent of the non disclosure, and this issue is currently subject to a JR application to the High Court.

During Jeremy’s trial, and ever since, the issue of Sheila being shot twice has been detrimental to Jeremy’s defence, as many people believe that Sheila could not have fired the gun twice, and don’t accept theories about a ‘recoil’ shot. Or that the first shot did not kill Sheila but simply lodged in the neck tissue and therefore she could have fired the gun a second time.

Withholding this information about Sheila having only one bullet wound when she was first seen, coupled with the non-disclosure of the full coroner’s inquiry, allowed Essex police and the crown to hide this issue from the trial and bring doubt into the minds of the jury that Sheila had committed suicide.

However, the evidence above clearly reveals that when Sheila’s body was first seen, she had only sustained a single gunshot wound. It is possible that the rifle was accidentally discharged by any of the individuals who entered the main bedroom which included Police Officers, FSU officers and paramedics. This evidence has enormous implications for the safety of Jeremy’s conviction and makes up a small part of the vast submissions that will be presented to the CCRC in the very near future.

[1] AT-08-258) Dr Vanezis (12.11.86) Report PDF

[2] East Anglian Daily Times dated 09.08.85 front page,

[3] AI-007-01) CSI Harris - (19.09.85) PDF

[4] BU-19-413) CI Gibbons - 23.09.85 PDF

[5] Holmes Box 8/318) Dr Craig - (07.08.85) PDF

[6] Holmes Box 8/317) Dickinson Dr Craig notes PDF Pg. 3

[7] AI-035-01) DCI Miller - (15.08.85)(a) PDF, AI-035-01) DCI Miller - (15.08.85)(b) PDF, AI-035-01) DCI Miller - (15.08.85)(c) PDF

[8] Holmes Box 6/98 16.10.91 Stan Jones COLP PDF

[9] Holmes Box 1/111 – Coroner report PDF

[10] Wireless message Logs PDF