Friday, December 23, 2011

Jeremy Bamber and the Murders in 1985

It's all very well in detective stories. The way that they generally go is that the police are failing to solve the crime: along comes Maverick Detective Adam Strong. He infuriates all the local police with his quirky methods and is threatened with being taken off the case - - and then he finds the key evidence which helps him to find the real murderer, who goes to prison. The End.

I think I must have known all this since I was very small. I invented Adam Strong the Detective and wrote a story about him when I was something like nine years old.

Maverick-detective stories are very satisfying to read, or to watch - many, perhaps most of television police dramas are roughly along those lines.

In real life, things are a lot more complicated and one of the complicated cases that I've thought about quite often over the years is the murders of the Bamber family in 1985. The case is so strange that "you couldn't make it up" is putting it mildly. It's as though the whole thing was put together, rather clumsily, by an aspiring crime novelist.

Nevill and June Bamber were very wealthy and they lived in Tolleshunt D'Arcy in Essex. They had two adopted children: Sheila Caffell - a slim, fragile-looking former model known as "Bambi" - who had six-year-old twin boys, and Jeremy Bamber.

Police were called to the house one day in 1985 to find that the parents, Sheila, and her twin boys had all been shot dead.

Initial suspicion fell upon Sheila, who was a schizophrenic, and for a while it all seemed cut and dried. She had apparently shot all the family and then killed herself.

But then Jeremy's girlfriend, Julie Mugford, said that he had confessed to her that he had killed them all, even though police records seem to show that there was still movement in the house when Jeremy was actually outside with the police.

There are lots of conflicting bits of evidence, any one of which is capable of making you think, firstly "Oh yes, he did" and secondly "Oh, no he didn't."

You can read all about it here.

Sheila Caffell was a schizophrenic with a history of delusions. In those days, schizophrenics were frequently regarded as likely to display violence, although I understand that most schizophrenics are now regarded as more likely to harm themselves than others. But that doesn't mean that she didn't do it!

Jeremy Bamber is well-spoken and was a good-looking young man: he sounds very plausible. LinkBut that doesn't mean that he didn't do it!

One fact that everyone seems sure of is that there was a lot of confusion on the day itself - hardly surprisingly - and that the police investigation was very badly mishandled. See more by watching the video here. But that doesn't mean that either Sheila or Jeremy didn't do it!

In the end Jeremy was convicted and was eventually told that he will serve his whole life in jail. Is the conviction safe? He is the only person in the country serving a whole-life sentence who has constantly protested his innocence.

The thing that always grabs me about this case is that I absolutely hate any kind of miscarriage of justice, and that's what haunts me about it too.

When the murders happened, Jeremy Bamber was twenty-four. Now he's fifty, and he has been in prison all that time.

If I think back to 1985, I was twenty-nine. If I think of all the years - - all the things that have happened - - all the places I've been - - so much of my life has happened since that time.

I think that many people would say that the ages between twenty-four and fifty are the prime of life.

I don't, of course, know whether or not there has been a miscarriage of justice here.

But what if there has? What if he didn't do it? What if he's innocent, and all his family were killed, and then he was locked up for life?

I think it's impossible for any of us to imagine how that would feel.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

There's absolutely nothing light-hearted that I can say about this story. It makes you think.

10:03 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

It's no wonder you don't sleep at night.

1:37 am  
Anonymous Shooting Parrots said...

Blimey! Nothing like a murder ystery at Christmas!

It's an intriguing tale though. I assume Bamber is still in prison because he won't admit his guilt.

On the balance of the Wikipedia article, I'd say he did it, but then I'm no Adam Strong.

Have a very merry Christmas.

3:03 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I cannot think of murders on Christmas eve -- maybe later.

I wish for you and Stephen a very happy, joy-filled, peaceful 2012.

8:26 pm  

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