In 1995, the jury in the O.J. Simpson double murder trial sat through eight months and more of evidence and theatrics, then deliberated for a disgracefully short four hours before returning not guilty verdicts on both counts. The trial of Vincent Tabak for the murder of Joanna Yeates lasted less than three weeks, and the jury took three days to reach a 10-2 majority verdict
In view of the 43 bruises on the victim's body, one is entitled to ask what took them so long? But the fact that they considered this case from every angle coupled with the damning evidence excluded by the judge as being more prejudicial than probative means this rightly convicted murderer has no grounds for appeal.
This terrible affair began as a missing person inquiry when in the run up to Christmas last year, Joanna Yeates vanished mysteriously from her Bristol home. On Christmas Day, her body was found dumped in a country lane. She had been strangled. The next development was the arrest of an extremely improbable suspect; her landord Chris Jefferies was over sixty, a retired schoolmaster and according to some innuendo, a man who would have had no interest in Miss Yeates even if he had been thirty years younger.
It was though a different and far more distateful type of innnuendo that led to contempt of court proceedings being issued against two tabloid newspapers
Mr Jefferies was the last person (bar one) to see the victim alive, so however unlikely a suspect, he was a bona fide
one. He was also questioned for days; younger men with far more stamina and (one should expect) character have been subjected to less rigorous interrogation and have confessed in short order. See in particular the case of the Norfolk Four
. It is not unlikely that the police could have bludgeoned a confession out of Mr Jefferies, and if no other evidence had come to light, he would have quite likely spent his twilight years in prison.
Throughout that interrogation, throughout the whole intensive missing person and murder investigations, Vincent Tabak said nothing, increasing the possibility or even the likelihood of Mr Jefferies or some other innocent person being convicted of an heinous murder, and thereby compounding his crime.
When at last the finger was pointed at him, he admitted killing Miss Yeates but concocted a fanciful scenario of her inviting him into her apartment, him misreading the signals, trying to kiss her, and then half strangling, half smothering her accidentally while trying to stifle her screams.
As usual, the prosecution tried to go over the top, and wanted to raise the fact that Tabak had paid for sex with a prostitute on a trip to Los Angeles. The judge rightly excluded this, it being evidence of what exactly? Mr Justice Field also excluded evidence found on Tabak's computer that he liked to fantasise about or at least watch pornographic videos which included scenes of women being choked. Perverted though that sounds, it is a sad fact that much ordinary "entertainment" consists of watching people being murdered, from films like The Silence Of The Lambs
to soap operas; the BBC series EastEnders
, which is screened before the watershed, once saw two men murdered in one episode.
Having said that, there has to be something more than a little unhealthy about a man who regularly views dedicated "snuff" films as apparently Tabak did.
Tabak also constructed an alibi for the murder, and appears to have gone about his daily business in a totally natural manner, until the police knocked on his door. He was given the mandatory life sentence with a tariff of 20 years, and he will be lucky if he sees daylight anytime before he is ready for the old folks' home.