On August 7th, 1985 around 7.45 am armed police entered White House Farmhouse after breaking down the kitchen door and found Nevill Bamber, his wife June, their adopted daughter Sheila and her twin children all shot dead.
It was apparently a case of murder-suicide, Sheila had apparently shot the others and then herself. All the doors and windows on the ground floor were secure, bolted and locked from the inside.
Sheila had been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, and had also been using illegal drugs such as cannabis and cocaine, so it was not hard to believe that she had shot her entire family and herself. The Bamber’s adopted son Jeremy told police that he had loaded the hunting rifle the previous evening to shoot some rabbits, but had not fired any rounds. He had unloaded the gun, but left it in the kitchen.
However, a month later on September 7th, Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend Julie Mugford gave a statement to police claiming that Jeremy had confessed on the day of the murders to hiring a hitman to murder his family. This however turned out to be untrue, the hitman turned out to have a solid alibi, and other details in Julies’s statement were obviously fabricated from false theories and rumours that were circulating. It is clear that Julie changed her story just after Jeremy told her he did not want to see her any more in a fit of jealousy.
At trial, the prosecution case rested mainly on a silencer that was found by relatives in downstairs cupboard. Blood found in the silencer was alleged to be human and compatible only with Sheila, implying that the silencer had been on the gun when Sheila was shot.
However in March 2000, DNA tests showed DNA in the moderator was not compatible with Sheila’s DNA, undermining the prosecution case.
The Criminal Case Review Commission concluded that “if the evidence about the blood in the sound moderator could not be viewed as having the significance attached to it at trial, then the rest of the evidence would not be sufficient to maintain a conviction” and referred the case to the Supreme Court.
However the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, concluding that the DNA results could be simply due to contamination, and did not invalidate the earlier blood type results.
Apart from the blood in the silencer, the rest of the prosecution case was very weak and made little sense. Jeremy’s car had been parked outside his home all night, and no tracks were detected on muddy tracks he could have used to travel to and from the farmhouse in the middle of the night from his home four miles away. Travelling by road would entail passing many houses, and a substantial risk of being seen.
In addition, Jeremy had called police to tell them Nevill had called, saying Sheila had gone crazy and had got the gun. He had tried to call back, but the line was engaged. It was clear that if Nevill had called Jeremy, then surely Sheila was responsible. But conversely if Sheila had not shot herself, it was clear that Jeremy had to have murdered his family ( or possibly hired someone as Julie claimed ). By calling police, he effectively framed himself, if there was solid evidence that Sheila had not shot herself.
It was also difficult to see how anyone could have staged Sheila’s suicide. The gun was positioned under her chin, and there was no sign of a struggle. Why would she have meekly sat still, given her mother was lying shot dead a few feet away near the entrance to the master bedroom? She had also been shot twice, making it even more unlikely she would have sat still while her suicide was staged.
There is even evidence that Sheila was alive long after 3 am, implying that she must have shot herself. There was no livor mortis visible seven and a half hours later.
Following the 2002 appeal, a withheld report was found showing that the blood in the silencer could in fact be animal blood. This possibility was never known to the jury, and is a much more plausible source for the blood found in the silencer.
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