Tuesday, February 8, 2011

From the archive, 29 October 1986: Essex family murders trial

Originally published in the Guardian on 29 October 1986
Jeremy Bamber, the farmer's son who boasted that he could commit the perfect crime, was gaoled for 25 years yesterday after he was found guilty of murdering five members of his family.
Bamber, aged 25, shot and killed his adoptive parents, Neville and June Bamber, both aged 61, his sister, Sheila Caffell, aged 27, and her six-year-old twin boys, Daniel and Nicholas, at their farmhouse in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex, in August last year in the hope of becoming the sole beneficiary of the family's £436,000 estate.
Bamber staged the massacre in such a way as to raise suspicions that his 27-year-old mentally ill sister had carried out the killings and then turned the gun on herself.
However, after considering the evidence for 9 ½ hours, the jury of seven men and five women at Chelmsford crown court brought in 10-2 majority verdicts against him yesterday on all five counts of murder.
Bamber, who had denied the charges and who had remained impassive throughout the 18-day trial.
Sentencing him, Mr Justice Drake told Bamber that his conduct in planning and carrying out the killing of five members of his family was "evil almost beyond belief".
"It shows that you, young man though you are, have a warped, callous and evil mind concealed behind an outwardly presentable, civilised manner."
The judge said that Bamber's action in killing his mother, father and sister had been dreadful enough. But he went on: "You fired shot after shot into them and also into the two little boys aged six who you murdered in cold blood while they were asleep in their beds.
"I believe that you did so partly out of greed because, although you were a well-off young man for your age, you were impatient for more money.
"You wanted to be master of your own life and to enjoy an inheritance much of which would have come to you anyway in the fullness of time."
In recommending that Bamber serve a minimum of 25 years in prison, Mr Justice Drake said he had to consider when it would be safe to release into society a person who had planned and killed five members of his family.
The police initially believed that Sheila Caffell had indeed carried out the killings and then committed suicide. Before carrying out the murders, Bamber told his girlfriend, Julie Mugford, that he had devised "the perfect murder" in which his sister would be the scapegoat.
A month after the killings, Miss Mugford went to the police and told them that Bamber had confessed to her he was responsible.
Paul Keel