Explaining the Jeremy Bamber controversy from ITV's White House Farm

Abby Robinson
Photo credit: ITV

From Digital Spy

Jeremy Bamber is back in the news thanks to White House Farm on ITV, which recently concluded and handles one of Britain's most high-profile murder cases: that of a family of five shot dead at a farmhouse in the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex in 1985.

Married couple Nevill and June Bamber were murdered along with their adopted daughter Sheila Caffell and her two 6-year-old twin sons, Daniel and Nicholas.

In episode one, we're told that Nevill and June's adopted son Jeremy raised the alarm, contacting the police with concerns about Sheila. He told the authorities that his father had rung him, terrified, because she had "gone crazy with a gun" – Sheila was taking medication for mental-health issues, including schizophrenia, and had spent time inside a psychiatric hospital.

Photo credit: ITV

Related: White House Farm tackles dangerous mental-health clichés

But before Jeremy could ask Nevill any questions, the call ended abruptly, "like someone had put their finger on it, cut it off".

When the police entered the house, Sheila, her children, Nevill and June were all dead. The gun was found next to Sheila, which initially led the police to believe that she had killed her family before taking her own life.

But it was Jeremy who was later found guilty of their deaths and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He was initially served a minimum 25-year sentence, but that was changed to a whole-life order by the then Home Secretary in 1994.

Photo credit: ITV

His then girlfriend, Julie Mugford, who initially supported Jeremy and backed up his alibi to the police, later changed her statement. She told the police that Jeremy had orchestrated the murders because he wanted the family inheritance. That led to him being arrested the next day.

According to the Daily Mail, she was recently spotted in Canada.

Jeremy has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has appealed the ruling multiple times.

Photo credit: ITV

Bamber's lawyers had requested that the ITV drama be put on hold because the convicted murderer is continuing to protest his innocence, taking issue with the way in which the evidence and trial were handled, something that his supporters have latched onto.

An online petition, which has more than 8,000 signatures, references "documents and photographs" which it says are being "withheld under Public Interest Immunity".

So, apart from the TV show, what are the grounds upon which Bamber's supporters are making the case for his innocence?

The evidence in question concerns a gun silencer that played a key role in the trial.

Photo credit: Mirrorpix - Getty Images

Related: White House Farm highlights the *other* crime taking place

The jury was told that the firearm had a silencer or rifle sound moderator attached to it when it was used. That was evidenced by the red paint marks found on it, which matched the kitchen wall where Nevill was found. Sheila's blood was also found on the apparatus.

But when the police found the murder weapon, the silencer was in the cupboard downstairs, which proves that Sheila couldn't have taken her own life. They also argued that with the silencer attached, the rifle would have been too long for her to take aim at herself, which also debunks both the suicide and in turn, the other murders.

Photo credit: ITV

During the trial, the judge, Mr Justice Drake, who said Jeremy was "warped and evil beyond belief", told the jury: "If she [Sheila] had killed everyone and was about to commit suicide and put the gun to her neck and found she could not reach it, is it seriously to be suggested that anyone, whether mentally upset or not, would then unscrew the silencer, go back to the cupboard, put it in the box and then return upstairs to the bedroom before taking her life by two shots – one with some interval between the other?

"The prosecution on that evidence alone say it is inconceivable that she killed herself."

Author and biographer Carol Ann Lee, who wrote The Murders At White House Farm, has also discussed the fact that Sheila wasn't skilled in using firearms, but the person who used the weapon clearly was.

"The photo makes it clear that the person who used the gun knew what they were doing in that particular instance," she said (via The Sun): "Without any doubt.

"And they had a very steady hand. Sheila didn't have a steady hand, that's a matter of record.

"Nothing I saw made me doubt his guilt.

"I know plenty disagree. That's fine, as long as you can back it up with evidence, not just what his campaign team have said."

In 2018, however, The Guardian was given access to a confidential report from a senior forensic scientist, which also included findings from a leading firearms expert, casting doubt on the evidence.

One of the authors of the article was an individual involved in the Jeremy Bamber campaign.

Photo credit: ITV

There were only two suspects presented in the trial: Sheila and Jeremy.

But according to the report, the blood on the silencer "could have come from either Sheila Caffell or Robert Boutflour", the husband of June Bamber's sister, who is now dead. He visited the farm on several occasions.

That evidence was dismissed by the CPS, something which Bamber has continued to rail against. It contrasts with findings from another forensic scientist, who said that only Sheila's blood was found on the silencer, which is what the jury was told.

The report (via The Guardian) also says that another silencer was examined by the police, something that wasn't included in the trial. But while head of special crime at the CPS, Frank Ferguson, said that there was no evidence to support the existence of a second silencer, "any evidence that suggests that there was or may have been another silencer for the rifle would raise the possibility that the other silencer was used during the shooting and not the one alleged by the prosecution".

He added: "Such a possibility would significantly undermine the case against JB and any material supporting such a possibility would plainly be material, which casts doubt on the safety of the conviction."

Some gun experts have also said that burn marks found on the bodies suggest that a silencer wasn't used at all, which could work in Bamber's favour.

Photo credit: ITV

He has also argued that the phone logs from that night rule him out.

Bamber discovered a note in police documents given to him in 2011 that he claims prove he called the police at "approx 3.37am" on the night of the murders from his home. That is roughly 10 minutes later than the 3.26am time which the prosecution cited in the trial, which they alleged was made from the scene of the crime. According to the Daily Mirror, his lawyers have argued that it would have been impossible for him to make the 3.5-mile journey back to his house to make a second call.

But despite the above findings, a spokesperson for Essex Police said that "there has never been anything to suggest that he [Bamber] was wrongly convicted".

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