There were a lot of factors that eventually determined Jeremey Bamber’s conviction, his confessions to Julie Mugford, the phone calls, her statements, his impatience, behaviour, and overt greed in front of numerous people, his courtroom challenge and his perceived acting. Post conviction, his insistence that his family and Essex Police were corrupt and the prosecution he faced was composed around lies compounds his situation. He clings to the initial police conclusion that it was a murder suicide; we have to remember that initially he was well on course to get away with it. Some people remain under the spell of his eloquence and determination. He continues to appeal to the court of loose public opinion.
The central feature in this blog is the murder weapon, how it was chosen, prepared and used. It was the most complex firearm in the farmhouse. Those technical and physical details must be fully understood and they cannot be ignored or overlooked. Those aspects form the core of this blog.
If it is indeed your opinion that Sheila Caffell committed those murders and her own suicide then why didn’t she choose to kill the entire family whilst Jeremy was there, why did she spare him? Her unique skills with a firearm would not have prevented her; surely. Please explain her actions to me in detail. I welcome your comments.
With particular regard to this I respect opinion supported by knowledge, but opinions based on just thoughts and feelings which ignore real issues can be very tedious.
The White House Farm murders have attracted a great deal of attention since they were perpetrated in August 1985. Continued interest in these brutal killings that took place in the peaceful surroundings of rural Essex has been ironically kept in the forefront by Jeremy Bamber who was convicted for the offences in October 1986. He has always maintained he is innocent. With the aid of a campaign team he diligently pursues and overlays supposedly undisclosed evidence. He and they insist that his sister Sheila Caffell committed the murders.
His support team consists of some very well respected, intelligent and articulate individuals who are working hard to secure further appeals that will, they hope, ultimately bring about his release.
This includes a new Patron, Michelle Diskin Bates, the sister of Barry George. It was George who was initially found guilty but later acquitted for the murder of Jill Dando in 1999.
This team consider Bamber’s incarceration to be major miscarriage of justice. They are impressed by his continued insistence that he is innocent even after 33 years in prison. His stance and dogged determination convinces them that he is a unique, innocent and wrongly imprisoned victim.
To get a broad view I would recommend that you look at the Jeremy Bamber campaign website and read the narratives that his supporters have posted. One particular post by Robin Cox, gives an interesting “opinion” based account of the murder weapon and how it was utilised. It is a fascinating insight into his supporters and the lengths they are prepared to go to support him. My initial contact with them was positive but once they realised the direction of my investigation and my conclusions it was no surprise that contact ceased. Michelle Diskin Bates has never replied to my letter to her. Blog/ Who Didn’t Kill Jill Dando.
Jeremy Bamber’s supporter’s go to great lengths to reveal and remind us of the vast quantities of what they consider to be, undisclosed evidence. Their analysis of how the murder weapon was utilised however is very simple. This conclusion they argue is an important element that supports his innocence.
“It is an absurd suggestion that the daughter of a farmer, who grew up on a farm during the 60’s and 70’s before gun laws were tightened, who had a brother who used rifles and who herself went to shooting parties, did not know how to fire a weapon. This aside, even if Sheila had never actually picked up a gun before, there was one sitting on the settle in front of her in the scullery on the night of the tragedies, the magazine loaded and ready to fire and more bullets on the side waiting to be used. The family were all shot at very close range, most shots within a few inches, the furthest being 4 feet away”.
“At this distance how could anyone be expected to miss?”
On Wednesday 8th Jan 2020 ITV featured the first of a six part factual drama, White House Farm, produced by New Pictures. The last episode was screened on Wednesday 12 Feb 2020. This was based on the extensive research found in, “The Murders at White House Farm” by Carol Ann Lee, (2018) and the tragic personal material featured in Colin Caffell’s book, “In Search of The Rainbow’s End” (1995). Colin is the ex-husband of Sheila Caffell and father to Daniel and Nicholas Caffell.
Writer Kris Mrksa says:
“This is an incredibly compelling true crime story, but it’s the human dimension of these events that gripped my imagination, particularly after reading Colin Caffell’s book. So much discussion of the case has focussed on contested legal details, but I wanted to tell this story in a way that did justice to the devastating emotional truth of what happened.”
Jeremy Bamber says: “It is being broadcast in the middle of a judicial review and is likely to interfere with the CPS being able to pursue the option of a retrial”. He goes on to say that it is promoted as a drama based on Carol Ann Lee’s book and for the most part it is made up.
“It’s a disgrace”.
Jeremy Bamber is not unique at all. The New York killer, Alejandro Henriquez, 58, sentenced for 75 years in 1992 for the murder of three young girls shares the same psychopathic profile. Despite all the evidence Henriquez continues to vehemently deny any guilt. His self-centred narcissistic need for power, control and attention has never waivered all the time he has been in prison.
On the 4th February 2019 I visited the vicinity of the White House Farm Murders in Essex. I discovered that the approaches to the farm complex, the villages of Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Goldhanger where Jeremy Bamber lived, and the surrounding road and route network is probably still much as it was in 1985.
I have handled firearms in my military career and in shooting sport pursuits for over 45 years. I understand their technical functions and the knowledge and skills required to utilise them. I further appreciate the psychological, physical and proprioceptive demands and dark burden associated with hunting and killing human beings with a gun. I also understand the physical clandestine processes of planning a path to a target with the minimum risk and maximum chance of success.
In October 1986 Jeremy Bamber was tried and convicted for the murder of his adoptive parents, Nevill and June Bamber, his adoptive sister, Sheila Caffell and her two 6 year old twin sons, his nephews, Daniel and Nicholas Caffell. The murders had taken place in the early hours of August 7th, 1985 at the family home, White House Farm near Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex. The victims had all been shot with an Anschutz 525 semi-automatic .22 rifle that belonged to and was licenced to Nevill Bamber. A total of 25 rounds had been fired at close range into the victims, no shots had gone astray. Initially Essex police concluded that Sheila Caffell had committed a murder suicide. Bamber’s guilt came to light after some of his relatives became suspicious and his ex-girlfriend, Julie Mugford told police that he had confided in her about plans to kill his entire immediate family in order to secure the wealthy family estate. Bamber she claimed had even contacted her in the hours before and after deliberating the crime. She had considered his plan to be so monstrous she found difficulty believing he would do it. Once the initial police investigation and inquest determined that it was likely to have been Sheila Caffell, (which was how Jeremy Bamber left the crime scene to appear), Julie Mugford, still in a relationship with Bamber, accepted that conclusion.
Confident that he had got away with the crime his arrogant and strange behaviour did not escape attention. He finished his relationship with Julie Mugford, the very person he had confided with about his plan. Julie Mugford confessed her knowledge to the police. As more findings and facts emerged Jeremy Bamber was arrested. Eventually he was put on trial and was found guilty of the 5 murders. The jury convicted him on a majority verdict of 10-2 and he was sentenced to 25 years. He has never admitted guilt and has now spent nearly 33 years in prison. His supporters continue to pursue the theory that Sheila Caffell committed the murders.
Gun Facts v Gun Thoughts
Only 1.6% of people in the UK use and have legal access to guns. This includes our police and military as well as sporting shooters. Private ownership and licencing of shotguns and firearms can only be granted for sporting use. Unlike the USA, guns in the UK, (with some exceptions in NI), cannot be procured for personal protection. Therefore, shooting as a sport has to be associated with a desire and interest. Within that 1.6% gun handling population only 10% are female.
Women are far less likely to commit murder than men advises Adam Lankford, a US criminal justice professor. In the USA where firearms are far more accessible than in the UK only 8% of firearm homicides are perpetrated by females. On the rare occasions when women kill, they are far more likely to poison, stab, suffocate or start fires than use a gun.
There is a very straightforward philosophy called “Ockham’s Razor” which is a problem-solving principle that suggests that simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones. When presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, one might consider the solution with the fewest assumptions. That practise does not immediately solve crimes but it is an interesting reflection. Within my descriptions I like to use analogies. I appreciate that most people don’t understand firearms and how they operate so I will cross associate with common everyday skills that we regularly undertake or can more easily associate with, I hope that will help. Guns and their characteristics are so often misunderstood, misplaced, and misinterpreted. Unfortunately very few journalists and writers can accurately describe, debate or discuss them. The reason for this is simple, most people don’t use guns. Writing about them especially with reference to crime and the taking of lives has to be absolutely accurate. There can be no room for error.
A great deal of focus, attention and deliberation has been applied to certain features of this crime. The telephone calls to the police, the sound moderator, (rifle silencer), and the mental and physical condition of Sheila Caffell. This is all relevant and important, but I am going to focus my study on three other aspects to this crime. The choice, preparation and use of the murder weapon. The single, detachable Anschutz 525 10 round magazine and the approach and return cycle route to the farm that it was considered Jeremy Bamber might have taken.
We know that Jeremy Bamber was totally familiar with his fathers Anschutz .22 rifle and regularly used it to shoot rabbits around the farm. That is what the rifle was designed for. It was the most complex firearm in the house. Bamber had handled firearms from an early age. Some people are natural shots and take to handling firearms smoothly and easily; they are not unlike naturally skilled drivers, footballers and artists. Others are awkward and uncoordinated and may become quickly frustrated and disinterested. A lot of people are physically frightened of the mere thought of handling and discharging a firearm. Most of us drive but we don’t need to be interested in cars. That does not apply to guns and shooting in the UK.
If Sheila Caffell had any interest in shooting and the attendant skills needed to operate a semi-auto rifle it would not have escaped attention. Most people in the UK do not know how to operate a firearm any more than they could operate and drive a steam engine. Those same people could learn of course but there must be a desire and they would need to apportion a reasonable amount of time. You don’t learn to drive a steam engine by watching, “Michael Portillo’s, Great British Railway Journeys” or discover how to operate firearms by watching, “Saving Private Ryan”.
If Sheila Caffell committed the murders she had mysteriously acquired the instinctive, proprioceptive skills and knowledge to confidently operate the .22 Anschutz in what would be a very pressured situation. We assume she had the will and desire to kill her mother and father and her two 6 year old sons, (but strangely not her brother Jeremy). She had planned the entire event which included her own suicide. She was able to overpower her father after she initially failed to kill him outright. Nevill Bamber was a very tall and powerful man. She was able to twice recharge the rifle magazine, carry out all the drills necessary and all in the frenzy of killing her family.
The rifle scope had been removed before the murders
A family member had noticed in the weeks prior to the murders that the telescopic sight on the Anschutz had been removed. The scope whilst an ideal sighting accessory to shoot rabbits would have been a burden to a shooter trying to use such a weapon in the close confines of a property to shoot people. If the killer was Sheila Caffell we must assume that she had anticipated this. Either the scope was coincidentally and conveniently removed by Nevill or Jeremy Bamber in the period just before she used it or she did so and neither of them questioned it. You need the tools and the knowledge. For the purpose of shooting rabbits removing the scope made no immediate sense but either Nevill or Jeremy Bamber could have simply reasoned that he wanted to try the rifle without it, using the open iron sights; that would have been reasonable. If Sheila Caffell had removed it surely both men would have questioned it and they would have interrogated the family. Jeremy Bamber stated that the scope was removed so the rifle would fit into a cupboard.
When Derrick Bird perpetrated the Cumbria shootings in 2010 he left the scope on his bolt-action CZ .22 rifle. He possibly anticipated he would be killing victims from longer ranges. Fortunately some of his targets survived because the weapon was more cumbersome at the closer ranges and in the confined locations that he was shooting at people.
Sheila Caffell never voiced or displayed any interest in firearms or shooting. If she had and if only to fulfil a plan to kill her family maintaining a secret shooting pursuit in the UK would have been extremely difficult. There was certainly evidence that Sheila Caffell had a rudimentary experience of firing a shotgun but that does not qualify someone to purposefully and individually operate it or any other firearm. It has also been implied that because she was brought up in a rural farming family, she would learn how to handle firearms. That is a very common, urban inspired myth and likened to supposing a Merchant Sea Captain’s daughter is skilled at deep sea fishing and tying knots. Sheila Caffell would have needed to have been able to do the following, quickly and confidentially.
Magazine charging / Loading / Making ready
Unless she had acquired extra magazines, (which were never found), she would have to be able to charge a single magazine twice with a maximum total of 20 x .22 bullets. Jeremy Bamber admitted to leaving the rifle within easy reach with a full magazine beside it after looking for rabbits on the evening of the murders. That was convenient for Sheila Caffell. Nevertheless she still had to load the rifle, (attach the charged magazine into the magazine housing). Make ready, (withdraw the cocking handle to the rear and let it go – the bolt assembly flies forward under spring tension and picks the top round off the magazine and feeds it into the breech. This also cocks the internal hammer. The process of making a semi-auto rifle ready, (loaded and cocked to fire), is not natural, it takes practise. The natural inclination of the inexperienced shooter is to keep hold of the cocking handle and guide it forward. This will generally fail to pick up a round and will result in a misfeed. The analogy here is when we learn to allow an open car bonnet to drop the last couple of feet to enable it to lock. It’s not natural…but we only learn after we are initially shown.
Placing fired rounds with no hesitation or mercy
She was able to remove the safety and then very confidently bring the weapon to bear, (this is where removing the scope was so important). Firing and placing rounds into shouting, flailing, pleading human frames at close range would require some cold composure; despite being a schizophrenic, physically weak and uncoordinated. Her proprioceptive skills and co-ordination here was truly remarkable, she found her target on every attempt, not one round missed. If you think shooting people at close range, some of whom are determined to resist or try to escape is an easy task I question how you can conclude that. I can assure you it isn’t.
Killing a family
If it was Sheila Caffell who failed to kill her father in the bedroom she followed him downstairs after killing her mother and fought him in the kitchen, overwhelmed him, striking him with the rifle stock and barrel so hard that a shard of the wooden stock broke off and was later found. Having managed to detach the magazine and reload it, make the weapon ready again she continued to fire more rounds into his head until he was dead. Throughout the entire murderous scenario, she removed the magazine and recharged it twice. A full magazine reload at speed would take between 20-30 seconds. That is with the rounds accessible and at hand. How did she achieve this, she was wearing a nightdress. She managed this without dropping any cartridges or leaving any lead deposit or bullet lube on her hands, fingers or clothing. She was also able to do this with long natural nails and without damaging them. She had no stoppages that we know about but if she did, she dealt with them, picking up the small live rounds which having been ejected out of the ejection port would have been difficult to immediately find. Her handling drills were swift and smooth. There would have been no fumbling, panic, odd bullets dropped and cast around. She entered her sons bedroom and coldly shot them both in the head whilst they lay asleep.
Sheila Caffell’s suicide or murder
She then returned to her parent’s bedroom, laid down turned the rifle around and shot herself in the throat, planning to discharge a bullet through her palate and into her brain. She failed but despite the shock and pain of that attempt she managed to realign the weapon again and on the second attempt successfully killed herself. She had accounted for her rounds perfectly and had had a single round left for her own departure but when she failed to kill herself she reloaded the rifle having conveniently access to one further round and finished the job. So with all this in mind she had been able to count her rounds in the most peculiar circumstances. Now having killed herself she had even left the weapon “safe”; no rounds in the chamber or magazine. She didn’t even take her own life in her son’s bedroom as her ex husband Colin Caffell had pointed out and insisted she would have done if she had ever resorted to something so diabolical.
Subsonic hollow point .22 rimfire ammunition is designed for small game shooting. Used against a human form and particularly multi shot at close range it can be devastating. When these soft lead bullets strike a hard feature like bone they can splay or fracture as indicated by the examples above. Licenced .22 rifles are commonplace in the UK.
Counting rounds, being acutely aware of ammunition expenditure, timing reloads etc are drills practised by the military and armed police. In the heat of a live murderous shooting, this slightly built, physically weakened schizophrenic became a hideous Lara Croft; she was remarkable.
The single Anschutz magazine, or were there more.
If the perpetrator was Jeremy Bamber, he could have acquired 2 further Anschutz magazines at some point well before the killings took place and had a total of 30 rounds already loaded and available. One already in the house where he left it and an extra two on his person. To plan a killing in these circumstances with a single magazine would demand a great deal of confidence. It would require somebody with a clear plan who appreciated that whilst the .22 rifle was the best weapon available to them, it was not ideal. Compared to the shotguns it gave the greatest rate of fire but to be effective the perpetrator would have to get close to his victims and possibly use a lot of ammunition. The rifle and .22 ammunition kept in the house required a Firearms Certificate to buy, store and determine its use which was for vermin control. That was the responsibility of Nevill Bamber. It was his habit and ultimately his deadly mistake to allow this rifle and indeed his shotguns to be easily accessed within the property. In practise he should have had them all secured in locked gun cabinets when they weren’t in immediate use. This was a condition of his licence and he and only he should have had access to the keys. Neither Jeremy Bamber or Sheila Caffell had an FAC, (Firearms Certificate), but you don’t need one to purchase magazines; they are not part of the weapon’s determined operational mechanism, they are detachable supporting items. Nevill Bamber did not need to account for how many magazines were used with the rifle so Jeremy or Sheila could have them without his knowledge. The police could not deduce what ammunition was available before the murders because any amount of it could have been used for target or rabbit shooting.
If Jeremy Bamber was the perpetrator, having used 23 rounds, (now on the third magazine or third reload), he had to use 2 rounds to kill Sheila Caffell. He then unloaded the Anschutz and placed the original empty magazine on the rifle and then placed the weapon on her body. He took the other two magazines, (if he had them at all), along with perhaps the remaining 5 x .22 rounds ready for disposal. They were small items, it would have been extremely easy.
If Bamber only used the single magazine it was of course entirely possible, and it would suggest he was fit, physically strong, agile, coordinated, sufficiently practised, calm, calculating, knowledgeable and utterly ruthless. Jeremy Bamber fitted that criteria. Sheila Caffell could only have used a single magazine and if she was the killer she would have been all the above.
Why did Sheila Caffell spare her brother, Jeremy Bamber
The immediate Bamber family were all in White House Farm on the evening of the murders. If Sheila Caffell was planning to kill them and then take her own life why didn’t she include her brother, Jeremy Bamber. She was eating and talking with her parents. JB was in and out of the house whilst working and in close proximity before he went home that evening. Her children were upstairs in bed. He had left what became the murder weapon totally accessible to her along with a fully charged magazine after apparently looking to shoot rabbits. Her supposed knowledge, determination and attendant skills would have made the task that much easier. First her parents and brother, then her boys upstairs, (being totally unaware of what had happened downstairs); and then her suicide next to them. Why did she wait until her brother had gone home, why did she spare him?
The route to White House Farm
In her statement Julie Mugford stated that Jeremy Bamber had told her about his plan to kill his family and that it would take 15 minutes to cycle to Whitehouse Farm from his cottage in Goldhanger. By road, the most obvious cycle route would have been via Tolleshunt D’Arcy but it would have taken longer than 15 minutes on a regular pushbike. If Julie Mugford was lying why was she so specific about the timing. DI Robert Wilkinson trialled various routes between Goldhanger and White House Farm and concluded that the most practical and sensible route was by bike via the Brook House Farm track.
This meant starting out of from Jeremy Bamber’s home in Goldhanger, Bourtree Cottage, No 9 Head Street, (image below), turning onto the B1026, Maldon Road and then after 2 miles turning right on the road track which passes through the farm location and leads across field perimeter tracks directly to the back of White House Farm. This cuts off a huge corner and avoids Tolleshunt D’Arcy. It took DI Wilkinson 16 minutes. This part of the route had easy access but it is also well screened and would minimise the likelihood of being seen.
It was a wet day when I found and cycled the route on the 04 Feb 19. The last 400 metres on the approach to White House Farm was muddy. My mountain bike was probably better than the bike Wilkinson used and I was 63 and considering the conditions I did it in 17 minutes on approach and 18 minutes into a slight headwind on return. That was pure riding time. I stopped to take photographs. There was only one gate to open. The route was easy and it would have been equally simple at night with the available ambient light. If Bamber used this route he was a young and fit 24 year old and the tracks would have been dry in the summer of 1985. If he had used additional rifle magazines, he could have taken them along with any .22 rounds he had in them or loose on his person. They would have been easy to dispose. Jeremy Bamber’s defence maintain that this route was a ridiculous exaggeration and nobody witnessed him. That might be true. I didn’t see or meet a single person on the farm track portion of the route and that was in daylight. Who saw me?
If Sheila Caffell committed those murders she is, and would remain entirely unique in the UK. As a real life, hideous version of Lara Croft she would be the only female, gun slay mass murderer with no knowledge of firearms that has ever existed in this country since the invention of gunpowder.