The White House Farm Murders

I often attempt to stay away from cases such as this one because it took place outside the United States.  It is not that I am prejudice in any way as far as where crime occur, but understandably I understand the American justice system better than other countries. I tend to be bias towards our system and when I am faced with another type I am sometimes unable to determine not necessarily the guilt or innocence of a person but the legality of the legal proceedings.  Sometimes that is just as important.  For example, as we know, here in America in a criminal trial a jury (at least in almost all jurisdictions) in a penalty phase must be unanimous and a guilty verdict is to be rendered on the idea of "beyond any reasonable doubt."  The case I am about to tell you about took place in England.  The trial ended in a 10-2 verdict of guilty.  However I have read that had it ended in a 9-3 the outcome would have been different.  In America either conclusion would have resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial but from my understanding a verdict of 9-3 would have acquitted, or at least what we call an acquittal. Going through the research I am confused at some of the court rulings that have been decided in this case and I do not pretend to understand them.  Even still, this case was/is too interesting not to post here.

At around 3:30 am on the morning of August 7, 1985 police in Essex England received a phone call on what we consider their non-emergency line from 24 year old, Jeremy Bamber.  He was reporting that his father, Ralph "Nevill" Bamber, had called him and told him that his sister was "going berserk" with a rifle.  Jeremy was told to make his way the few miles down the road from the cottage he lived in to his parents' home and that officers would meet him there.  Investigators would later say that they had actually passed Jeremy on their way to the Bamber home and that from their estimate he was going slow.  To be a bit fair here I cannot say in what context this was made in reference to. I mean don't most of us slow down when we see emergency vehicles, if not pull over for them to pass?  In the same respect, one would think that he would have long been at the residence since he did not have as far to drive to get there and he was concerned enough to call the police about the incident.  

Arriving officers apparently waited for the tactical team to arrive nearly an hour later before making any sort of decision about entering the home.  One can assume (although we know what they say about that) the investigators attempted to get someone inside to open the door. It was reported that all the doors appeared to be locked.  It was later reported that on the grounds of the 300 acre farm lived a groundskeeper who had a key to the main home (what about Jeremy??) but that was apparently not an option.  On top of this it seems that the tactical team decided they would not enter until day break. So, it was nearly 8:00 in the morning, over four hours after the call from Jeremy, before investigators entered the home through the back door.  

What the investigators found inside would likely haunt them for the rest of their lives. They would find the body of Nevill Bamber downstairs in the kitchen.  They immediately noticed that there appeared to be a struggle in this area as things were thrown about, including sugar, something that would later become significant.  Nevill had been shot eight times, six of those shots were to his face and head.  It would later be determined or believed that at least four of those shot had been made upstairs and that the remaining had happened in the area in which his body was found.

Making their way upstairs they found the body of June Bamber in the doorway of the master bedroom.  She had been shot a total of seven times, once was right between the eyes.  Also in the bedroom they would find the body of Sheila Caffell, Jeremy's sister.  She would have two gunshot wounds under her chin, one of them at her throat. Investigators would also find the rifle that would later match up to all the shotgun wounds with Sheila. The condition of Sheila's body and those things around here would become significant later and I will go into those things at that time.

Moving on through the house the investigators would find Sheila's twin six year old boys, Nicholas and Daniel still in their beds.  Daniel had been shot 
five times in the back of his head while Nicholas had been shot three times, all of which were either done at close range or direct contact.

In all 25 shots had been fired in the house, killing four people. Seeing as they found the weapon with Sheila, and Jeremy had told them his father had called him saying his sister was going "berserk" investigators quickly determined that Sheila had murdered her sons and parents before turning the weapon on herself.  After interviewing Jeremy they were even more certain this was the case.  Jeremy told investigators that he had been at the home the night before the murders for dinner and that there had been an argument between his sister and parents.  He would claim that his parents had suggested Sheila put her children in foster care as she was unable to care for them due to her mental instability.  Some claim this conversation likely never happened.  Others believe that instead of what we consider to be traditional foster care it was suggested more that the children enter a type of daycare foster care and seeing as the children had been in traditional foster care before they could not see this upsetting Sheila.  At any rate the investigators still believed that Sheila was responsible for all the deaths.

Apparently family members disagreed with the investigators and almost immediately suspected Jeremy of being involved.  They even told the investigators but felt they were not being listened to.  To be fair I should point out that these family members would stand to inherit from the family if in fact all the other members were dead or convicted of the crime.  That being said, the information they had was interesting but it would take another incident until the authorities would look at it.  From the way I have understood it, although Jeremy would have been the sole survivor and heir to the considerable estate belonging to his parents, after the murders the executor of the estate (I am uncertain if this was another family member) as well as cousins of Jeremy's through his mother's side of the family were inside the home apparently going through things.  They had quickly argued first that Sheila did not know how to shoot a gun but that more importantly the gun that was found by her and ultimately determined to be the murder weapon always had a silencer on it which was not found initially.  They claimed the silencer could not be removed without the assistance of a screwdriver. They informed the investigators that they had found the silencer in a cupboard downstairs with what appeared to have blood on it.  Apparently investigators were not super interested in it right away and it would stay at the home of a relatives for a few weeks before obtained by investigators.  

Family members of Jeremy would describe him much different than his friends would. Family members say that he was arrogant, disrespectful to his parents and always seemed to live above his means.  Friends would describe him as gentle and non-violent.  It does seem that few people denied however that he, as well as his sister, had a difficult relationship with their parents, especially their mother.

Jeremy had been adopted by the Bamber's when he was about six months old in 1961. Sheila had also been adopted (the two were not biologically related) about four years prior to that when she was an infant also.  The Bamber's were fairly wealthy although apparently the 300 acre farm in which they lived on and ran had been an inheritance to June from her father.  The couple had apparently been unable to have children of their own and had decided to adopt.  Both children were sent to boarding schools and many claim this lead to both of them having intimacy issues with their parents. It was said that Nevill had claimed that his reasoning for sending Jeremy at least to the boarding school was because if he had gone to the local school in the area and yet one day inherited the farm it would be likely that he would be employing some of his former classmates.  To me this says that Nevill and June did not want their children to associate with the "common" people and says a lot about their character.  

It appears that neither child likely lived up to their parents' expectations, but then again it seems their standards may have been rather high, especially June's. For her part it was said that June was overly religious and she herself battled with depression to which in 1982 she had sought help.  At the age of 17 Sheila had become pregnant by her boyfriend Colin Caffell but her parents convinced her to have an abortion. Soon after the abortion apparently June became particularly hard and dare I say abusive towards Sheila.  It was reported that she would refer to Sheila as the "devil's child" and disapproved of much of what she did. When Sheila was 20 she and Colin would marry. The couple had a few miscarriages but in June of 1979 Sheila gave birth to their twins.  Colin would claim that it was after this pregnancy that it appeared Sheila's mental state was deteriorating and from his assessment June surely was not helping the issue.  The couple would divorce in 1982.  The twins were briefly placed in foster care a few times during 1982 and 1983.  In August of 1983 Sheila was hospitalized.  It was then that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The doctor would later say that she had spoke of either murdering her sons, or getting them to murder for her.  She had also spoke of suicide but he did not find any of the threats valid.  To be fair here I am unsure if these feelings that she supposedly expressed were prior to any diagnosis and medication or if they had continued. It also appears that the same doctor that had treated June in 1982 was now treating Sheila and it was his belief that June's behavior and comments of calling Sheila the "devil's child" helped trigger her paranoid delusions of the devil taking over her life. Sheila would again be hospitalized in March of 1985, five months before the murder and spent just under four weeks there.  Apparently upon her release she had moved in with her parents to recuperate. Her relationship with her mother was still obviously strained but many say not nearly as strained as the relationship between June and Jeremy.

For his part Jeremy seemed to do the bare minimum in school (a lot of kids do) and was a disappointment to his father.  Even still after his graduation they paid for a trip for him to Australia and New Zealand.  It was later discovered that while there he was likely involved in a robbery of some sort and even possibly drug smuggling and had left the country in a hurry.  Some of his friends would contend that it was not Jeremy involved in the robbery but a friend of his that dictated them leaving the country.  Upon his return to England Jeremy worked a few dismal jobs including being a waiter.  Eventually his father hired him on at the farm.  His parents also provided him with a vehicle and he was living in a cottage in which they owned a few miles from their main house.  Both the vehicle and the home were provided for free.  Many would say later that Jeremy was openly angry about the wages in which he received working for his father and often spoken badly of both his parents.  It would be said later, and apparently confirmed by many, that he had even organized robberies at other businesses his family owned. Many also claim that at the time of the murders Jeremy was not on speaking terms with his mother.  

It is hard to know just what information the investigators initially had on the family aside from the fact they were obviously privy to some of Sheila's mental issues.  It simply seems that despite family members, that included Sheila's ex-husband, telling them things and giving them information, most of what they obtained and/or believed had come from Jeremy himself and they felt no reason to look deeper into things as they considered the case closed.

Then about a month after the murders Julie Mugford went to the police.  She had a story to tell.  It was a story that many have seemed to question, but in the same respect seemed to have confirmed other things.  Julie had been Jeremy's girlfriend at the time of the murders.  It seems she had initially backed him to investigators as to information about him but the night before she sought out investigators she and Jeremy had had an argument over their relationship.  She was now telling them that Jeremy had implicated himself in the murders of his parents, sister and nephews.  The problem with Julie, aside from the fact she could be looked at as a woman scorned, is that she had some criminal charges she was facing including forgery and other things.  The defense would claim that any other charges she was looking at were dropped for her cooperation in this case. Julie would claim that Jeremy was openly hostile about his relationship with both his parents, often spoke of inheritance and had told her the night of the murders it was going to happen that night.  Now, another issue was that Julie claimed Jeremy told her that he paid a friend to commit the murders.  The friend was promptly found and arrested (along with Jeremy) but he was released when it was discovered he had a very solid alibi.

The one major thing that happened at this point however is that the case was re-opened and things were looked at much deeper.  One of the first things was to retrieve the silencer that the family had found in the cupboard after the murders.  Investigators would claim that forensics determined that Sheila's blood was in fact on the silencer.  Defense attorney's have since argued over the years that it was not Sheila's blood but a mixture of Nevill and June's blood.  There are two arguments to be made about this silencer.  One, if in fact Sheila used it to kill her parents she would have had to remove the silencer before shooting herself because it would have made the barrel and gun itself too long for her to be able to shoot herself.  This would mean that she would have had to remove the silencer in order for this to happen, something some argue she could not, or would have no reason, to do.  On top of this is the contention that her blood was on the silencer by the investigators.  If this is true then it is absolutely certain that she could not have shot herself twice in the throat, removed the silencer, hid it in a cupboard downstairs, gone back upstairs and position herself. Secondly, if we believe the defense and the blood on the silencer was not Sheila's we have to believe that she had shot her family, using 23 bullets that would have required that she reload at least twice, take the silencer off, put it in the cupboard, then go back upstairs and shoot herself with the gun.  Taking in Jeremy's account that his father had called him prior to his death it seems highly unlikely that Sheila would have taken the time to remove the silencer, even if she knew how to do so, likely knowing that police would soon be on their way. If her intentions were to murder all of her family and herself she would have likely done it in the fastest and promptest way possible.  Of course there is the valid argument that she could not have shot herself with the silencer on but it is unlikely that she would have known that going in and would have only discovered it after an attempt.  That being said, from my understanding this rifle was not the only gun in the home and it would seem more plausible that instead of getting the tools to remove the silencer from this gun that she would have found another.  

Then there were other issues concerning Sheila that were looked at more closely, or so the investigators say.  They claim that her body showed no signs of a struggle and clearly Nevill had struggled at the very least.  Nevill was said to be 6'4" and Sheila was a rather small woman.  They found the idea of her having no marks after killing four people to be odd.  Investigators also claim that her hands and feet were clean and in fact that her fingers were manicured.  The interesting thing about this is again there were signs of a struggle in the house and yet apparently Sheila had not even broken a nail, nor did she have marks on her feet, but more importantly there was no sugar or signs of sugar. Remember I told you there was sugar all over the kitchen near Nevill's body?  It was said that her hands and body were tested for lead (i.e gunpowder) but I cannot say when this actually occurred since they had closed the case quickly.  It was determined that any lead levels found were not consistent with Sheila shooting a gun, let alone shooting it 25 times. Also, keep in mind that especially in the boys' situation, but also at least one shot at June, it was determined to be close range shots.  Investigators claim that the only blood on Sheila's body was her own.  Again, if we are to consider that she was the perpetrator of this crime we have to believe she not only removed and hid the silencer, but we also have to believe she had changed her clothing and apparently hid it very well since there was never any indication that it had been found, all while she likely knew the police were on the way to the home.  

Another thing that was looked at was Jeremy's claim that his father had called him, to which he had then called the police.  Two things seemed odd about this to people, some right from the start but it was brushed off like other things. First, the question was why would Nevill call Jeremy to report the issue and not call the police himself.  Secondly, why did Jeremy call what was in essence the non emergency number (that some say he likely had to look up) rather than 999 (the equivalent to our 911 system). For my part, and obviously to the part of others, the first question could possibly have an explanation. From everything my research told me, it said this was a family who was very much about appearances and prestige.  It has been argued, and I agree they could be correct, that Nevill did not call the authorities because he wanted to keep it under wraps.  However, let's look at the other side of that coin.  First off, the authorities claim there is NO record of Nevill calling his son on that evening and when they entered the house the phone was actually off the hook. There had initially been four phones in the home.  Keep in mind that this crime was in the mid 1980's so cell phones were not really around and the Bamber home only had one "cordless" phone but reports were that it was out for repairs. There was one phone in the kitchen that normally stayed there and one that was generally in the master bedroom and another was in the first floor office.  The phone that was to be in the master bedroom however was found downstairs in the kitchen and off the hook.  My research indicated that there seemed to be no blood on either of the kitchen phones which raises more questions.

If, in fact as the authorities believe, Nevill was first shot several times upstairs he would have not only trailed blood down to the kitchen area where he was ultimately killed but he would not have reached the phone until after he had already been shot.  According to Jeremy, in later interviews, the phone all but went dead while he was talking to his father and before he had called the police. In that scenario it would be reasonable to believe that the phone was left off the hook because Nevill was being attacked, of which not only would Jeremy had heard the scuffle, but he would have had difficultly breaking the line in order to for him to use the same phone to call the police.  Again though, this leaves the question of blood. Authorities would later contend that the call Jeremy stated was made by Nevill was never made and it was he who left the phone off the hook to either not allow calls to be made or to go with the story he would later tell the police.

So, what other holes are there in Jeremy's story.  For one he first claimed that on the night before the murders when he had been at the house he and Sheila had done some target shooting.  He would later claim that he had never seen his sister shoot a gun... ever.  This goes with the story that family members claim she did not know how to shoot a gun.  Jeremy would also claim that the particular gun used in the murders was one that was kept to shoot rabbits on the property. If you listen to his story, rabbits were a huge issue in the area as if they were a nuisance.  He would claim that he believed he had seen on, retrieved the gun from the closet and loaded it with the ammo but then apparently did not see the rabbit again so he had left the loaded gun and the ammo on the table before leaving the house.  Now, this explanation is not totally impossible as it was told but it seems rather unlikely or even too coincidental.  What are the odds that not only did you, yourself load the gun that would become the murder weapon and leave it and the ammo out in plain sight in a home where A) you have what you have stated to be a mentally unstable, possibly homicidal person and B) young children running around.  Not to mention, from what I have learned of the parents I do not see anyone leaving things out of place in the home, let alone a rifle just sitting on a table, I believe he knew better because a wrath could come his way.  

Now, one could say all the thing Jeremy claimed (at least what I have stated so far) could have happened or had an explanation.  His father could have called him and said Sheila was on a rampage with the rifle; the argument the night before about putting Sheila's children in foster care could have happened; He could have very well loaded that gun and left it and the ammo on the table hours before the murders; most importantly Sheila could have shot everyone in that house and then herself.  Except... none of it adds up. Most of it has to go back to that silencer but also to Sheila and her body.  First off, in his quest to make sense of things he had to figure out how in the time that he supposedly talked to his father and the police arrived everyone in the house was dead.  He would claim that seeing as investigators and Jeremy were outside the home from just before 4 am until almost 8 am that Sheila fired her own fatal shots while they were outside the home.  It also appears that only Jeremy makes this claim, although his defense would pick up on it and claim that the condition of her body supports it.  However, if that were true and the silencer was not on the gun then those outside would have heard the two shots.  Now of course they cannot argue that the silencer was never used because regardless of who's side you believe, there was blood belonging to victims on the silencer, which brings us back to Sheila placing that silencer in the cupboard prior to shooting herself, meaning more time would have gone by from the time Jeremy claims Nevill called (remember she has to kill him yet) and the police arrived at the scene.  We also have to remember again that this was the mid 1980's where forensics were not what they are today nor was there much in the way of information or knowledge about medications.  One could theorize that if in fact the defense is right in saying that the coagulation of Sheila's blood indicated a later time of death if the medications she was taking could not have affected that.  To be fair I saw nothing that mentioned this but the fact that no one mentions hearing a gunshot after the police arrived, let alone two, indicates to me that all the members in the home were dead prior to the police arriving.   

The prosecution would claim that his supposed story to Julie Mugford about paying a friend to commit the murders was a lie but that he had written a bike that belonged to his mother, but left at his home, to the main house in the middle of the night and that he, and he alone committed the murders.  They believe he then rode the back roads back to his home, as to not be seen, cleaned up and concocted his story in which he called the police, this of course is after he had set up the crime scene itself.  His defense claims that he had no wounds on him, just as Sheila had not had any, indicating he was involved in the struggle with Nevill that the scene indicated.  However, there again, although I did not see a reference to it.  If we are to believe that he set up things like keeping the phone off the hook, hiding the silencer and placing the gun (as well as a bible) next to Sheila, how do we he did not set things up to look like a struggle downstairs?  Who is to say some of the thing knocked over were not knocked down by Nevill trying to get away from his son or that after it was all over Jeremy did not personally throw things around to stage things?

To the credit of the defense one can argue, as many did, that the crime scene, as well as some of the investigation was bungled.  The defense claims that things were moved by investigators and then photographed, including Sheila's body, although I am unsure they have any proof of this.  My issue with this way of thinking is that if they had moved Sheila's body as they claimed then it was the investigators who placed the gun in her hands.  If that is the case why would they do that if the defense all but claims it was to set up Jeremy for the murders? To put the gun in Sheila's hand all but says she did it if you simply look at that part of things.  If authorities wanted to set up Jeremy for the murders they would have placed the gun elsewhere, proving none of the victims were capable of shooting themselves.  Sure, Sheila had the least amount of wounds but who is to say it was not the plan all along to make it look as if it was a murder/suicide perpetrated by Sheila?

Jeremy was convicted on October 28, 1986 and here is where things get a bit complicated for me when discussing another country's justice system.  My research says that Jeremy was sentenced to life but was to serve a minimum of 25 years.  However, it was then said in 1994, some eight years after his conviction Jeremy was informed that he was never be released from prison.  Of course throughout the years there have been appeals.  The only appeal that has ever really been approved was one in which in 2013 the European Courts of Human Rights ruled that all prisoners who have been given "whole life" sentences must have the possibility of parole.  

Jeremy continues to maintain his innocence claiming that the investigators bungled the scene and that his sister did in fact commit the murders.  Sheila's doctor, ex husband and other family members maintain that while they do not believe she would have ever done such a thing, she would have never harmed her children or even Nevill for that matter. They all claim the only person Sheila had an issue with was June.  Jeremy's defense, likely through his claims, say there is evidence that Nevill may have in fact called the police (although I have seen no proof), that the silencer was never on the gun (then why did no one hear 25 shots?), and the silencer only came into play weeks later when relatives who stood to inherit the estate if Jeremy were convicted found the silencer.  

It has been said that Jeremy hardly had a "hard" life in prison as it has been alleged that he has been given many privileges that are not afforded to other prisoners although I cannot say what those privileges are.  He has made attempts to file at least two lawsuits against family members while in prison.  One was to make a claim against the estate of June's mother claiming he was entitled to a portion and the other was against family members that apparently lived on the farm in which his parents had owned.  Both lawsuits have failed. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Matthew Heikkila

The Quinn Hanna Gray Kidnapping

Patricia Rorrer