Jeremy Bamber in 1986
|Born||13 January 1961|
|Education||Gresham's School, Norfolk, England|
|Known for||White House Farm murders|
|Criminal penalty||Whole life order (convicted 28 October 1986)|
Jeremy Nevill Bamber (born 13 January 1961) was convicted in 1986 of the murder of his adoptive parents, adoptive sister and her six-year-old twin sons. The shooting of the family, in August 1985 in Essex, England, came to be known as the White House Farm murders. Bamber is serving life imprisonment after being convicted by a 10–2 majority. Informed by the Home Secretary in 1994 that he would never be released, he is the only whole-life prisoner in the UK known to protest his innocence.
Bamber was 25 years old when he was convicted. The prosecution argued successfully that, after carrying out the murders to secure a large inheritance, Bamber had placed the gun in his 28-year-old sister's hands to make it look like a murder–suicide. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and for several weeks after the murders the police and media believed she was the killer.
Arguing that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice, Bamber has several times applied to have the conviction overturned or his sentence reduced. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in 1989. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the case back to the Court of Appeal in 2001, which upheld the conviction again in 2002. The CCRC rejected further applications from Bamber's lawyers in 2004 and 2012. In July 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Bamber's favour that there must be a possibility, for whole-life prisoners, of release and review.
Bamber told The Guardian in 2011 that he has never contemplated the thought that he will not be released. He does not have the support of his extended family, who were involved in gathering the evidence that saw him convicted and who remain convinced of his guilt.
Bamber was born to a vicar's daughter who had had an affair with an army sergeant, a controller at Buckingham Palace. She gave the baby up for adoption in 1961, the year of his birth, through the Church of England Children's Society. It was only after Bamber's conviction, when his adoption records were published, that his biological parents were told by reporters that Bamber was their son. They were by then married to each other and working at Buckingham Palace.
He was adopted when he was six months old by Nevill and June Bamber. The Bambers were wealthy farmers who lived in a large Georgian house at White House Farm, near Tolleshunt D'Arcy in Essex. Nevill was a local magistrate and former RAF pilot. Four years earlier, the couple had adopted a baby girl, Sheila.
Bamber attended Maldon Court, a private school, then Gresham's School, a boarding school in Norfolk. Claire Powell writes that Nevill felt it would be inappropriate to send the boy to a local school for the village children, when he might one day have to employ them on the farm. This led, writes Powell, to a situation in which Bamber felt increasingly alienated from his family and their life in the countryside, as did his sister, who was also sent to boarding school.
A close friend of his, Brett Collins, said Bamber was sexually assaulted when he was 11, around the time he started at Gresham's. According to Collins, Bamber went on to have sexual relationships with men and women, finding that his good looks and charm made him popular with both. He left school with no qualifications, much to Nevill's anger, but managed to pass seven O-levels at sixth-form college in Colchester, which he left in 1978.
After school Bamber's father financed a trip to Australia and New Zealand and a scuba diving course. While in New Zealand, Bamber reportedly broke into a jewellery shop and stole two expensive watches, one of which he gave to a girlfriend back in Britain. He also boasted, according to Claire Powell, that he had been involved in smuggling heroin overseas. One of his cousins said Bamber ended up leaving New Zealand in a hurry, because friends of his had been involved in an armed robbery.
He returned to the UK to work in restaurants and bars, which included working as a waiter in a Little Chef on the A12, but later agreed to return home and work on his father's farm. Although he reportedly resented the low wages, he was given a car and lived rent-free in a cottage his father owned at 9 Head Street, Goldhanger, 3½ miles from his family's farmhouse at White House Farm. He also owned eight percent of his family's caravan site, Osea Road Camp Sites Ltd., in Maldon, Essex.
Scott Lomax writes that two very different views have emerged of Bamber's personality. Prosecution witnesses described him as arrogant, with no respect for his family, and in search of a lifestyle he could not afford. Against this, his friends described him as gentle, someone who had never expressed violent thoughts. Lomax writes that Bamber underwent several psychological assessments in prison, but no evidence of psychopathy was found. His lawyers arranged for him to undergo a lie-detector test in 2007, which he passed.
White House Farm murders
The White House Farm murders were described by The Times in 2001 as one of the most infamous criminal cases of the previous 20 years. Police were alerted to the shootings at around 3:30 am on 7 August 1985 by Bamber, who told them his father had just telephoned him to say his sister, Sheila, had gone "berserk" with the father's rifle. Bamber and the police made their way to the farm, and after waiting outside until daylight, police broke the door down to find Nevill, June, Sheila and her two sons, Nicholas and Daniel, shot 25 times, mostly at close range. Sheila was found dead on the floor of her parents' bedroom, with the rifle still up against her throat, in what appeared to be a murder-suicide.
Sheila had twice spent time in a psychiatric hospital being treated for schizophrenia just months before the murders. Bamber told police she might have been especially distressed that night, because her parents had asked her to consider placing her sons in temporary foster care, as she was having difficulty coping. The prosecution argued that there was no evidence that this discussion had taken place, and that Bamber's allegations were part of his setting the scene for Sheila to take the blame. The police accepted that Sheila was responsible until a month after the murders, when Bamber's girlfriend told them he had implicated himself.
The prosecution case hinged on several key points. First, they argued that there was no evidence that Bamber's father had telephoned him, and that if Bamber was lying about the phone call, he must be the killer himself. They argued that the father was too badly injured after the first shots to have spoken to anyone; that there was no blood on the kitchen phone; and that he would have called the police, not Bamber. Second, they argued that, based on a spot of blood found inside the silencer, the silencer was on the gun when the shots were fired. If the silencer was on the gun, Sheila could not have shot herself twice in the throat, removed the silencer, and then had the strength to place it in a cupboard on a different floor of the house, before lying down to die. They also argued she could not have shot herself with the silencer on the rifle, because her reach was not long enough to hold the gun and silencer at her throat and press the trigger. The fact that she suffered two gunshot wounds to her own throat, the first of which was non-lethal, was said to be very unusual if not unheard of, for a suicide. In addition, the prosecution contended that Sheila was not strong enough to have overcome her father, who was over six feet tall, in what appeared to have been a violent struggle.
Bamber's defence team challenged the evidence over the years. They alleged that a police log suggested Bamber's father could have called the police that night, and that the silencer may not have been on the gun during the attacks. They argued that the silencer evidence was unreliable, because the silencer, which had a spot of Sheila's blood on it, was found in a cupboard at the farmhouse by Bamber's relatives weeks after the murders, and they stood to inherit the estate if he was convicted. The defence also produced crime-scene photographs that, they argued, suggested Sheila's body and the gun had been moved by Essex Police, who had inadvertently damaged the crime scene and therefore restaged it.
Life in prison
Bamber is a category A prisoner in HM Prison Wakefield, Yorkshire. He has worked there as a peer partner, which involves helping other prisoners to read and write, and has won several awards for transcribing books in the prison's Braille workshop. He said in 2001 that he had had 17 jail moves and 89 cell moves since he was first arrested, a number which had increased to 30 jail moves and more than 100 cell moves by July 2013. He has received compensation twice, once after suffering whiplash injuries when a van moving him between prisons crashed, and once when a Game Boy was stolen from his cell. In 2001 The Times alleged that Bamber had been treated with a degree of indulgence at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire, where prisoners were given the key to their cells. Among the allegations were claims that he studied for his GCSE in sociology and media studies, had a daily badminton lesson, and drew pictures of supermodels in an art class, which he later sold through an outside agent.
He formed several close relationships with women while inside, and has a large number of friends and supporters. He has rarely been involved in trouble, but on one occasion defended himself from a knife attack by another prisoner by using a broken bottle, and he received 28 stitches on his neck when he was attacked from behind by another inmate while making a telephone call. In 1994 he called a radio station from Long Lartin prison to protest his innocence.
Against extended family
Bamber launched two unsuccessful lawsuits while in prison to recover a share of his family's estate. In 2003 he began a High Court action to recover £1.2m from the estate of his adoptive grandmother, arguing that he should have inherited her home at Carbonnells Farm, Wix, Essex, and that he was owed 17 years' back rent from his cousins who were living there. The grandmother had cut Bamber out of her will when he was arrested, and most of the inheritance went to June Bamber's sister. In 2004 Bamber went to the High Court again to claim a share of the profits from the Bambers' caravan site in Maldon. He had retained his shares after his conviction, but had sold them to pay the legal costs arising from his claim on his grandmother's estate. The court ruled that he was not entitled to any profit from the site because of his conviction.
European Court of Human Rights
In January 2012 Bamber and two other British prisoners (Peter Moore and Douglas Vinter) lost a case before the European Court of Human Rights, in which they argued that whole-life imprisonment amounts to degrading and inhuman treatment. In July 2012 they were granted the right to appeal that decision. In July 2013 the Court's Grand Chamber ruled in their favour, holding that there must be a possibility of release and review.
- David James Smith, "And by dawn they were all dead", The Sunday Times Magazine, 11 July 2010 (webcite).
- Times editorial. "Murder most foul, but did he do it?", 18 March 2001.
- Eric Allison, "Jeremy Bamber murder appeal bid thrown out, The Guardian, 26 April 2012.
- "Killers' life terms 'breach their human rights'", BBC News, 9 July 2013.
- Eric Allison, et al, "Jeremy Bamber: Will new evidence bring historic third appeal?", Guardian Films, 30 January 2011.
- Claire Powell, Murder at White House Farm, Headline Book Publishing, 1994, p. 265.
Also see Carol Ann Lee, The Murders at White House Farm, Sidgwick & Jackson, 2015.
- Scott Lomax, Jeremy Bamber: Evil, Almost Beyond Belief?, The History Press, 2008, pp. 67–68.
- Powell 1994, pp. 28–30.
- Powell 1994, pp. 38, 46.
- Powell 1994, p. 40.
- Powell 1994, pp. 47–48.
- Lomax 2008, pp. 68–69; for the cottage in Goldhanger, "R – v – Jeremy Bamber", before Lord Justice Kay, Mr Justice Wright, and Mr Justice Henriques, Royal Courts of Justice, 12 December 2002, para 18.
- Lomax 2008, pp. 70–72.
- Eric Allison, Simon Hattenstone, "Is Jeremy Bamber innocent?" The Guardian, 10 February 2011.
- "R – v – Jeremy Bamber", 12 December 2002.
- Eric Allison, Mark Townsend, "Gun experts raise doubts over Jeremy Bamber murder verdict", The Observer, 4 February 2012.
- Eric Allison, et al., "Jeremy Bamber: Will new evidence bring historic third appeal?", Guardian Films, 30 January 2011, from 06:36 mins, and 08:00 mins.
- Lomax 2008, pp. 72–73.
- Steven Morris, "'Evil' family killer granted appeal", The Guardian, 13 March 2001.
- Martin Wainwright, "Murderer Bamber suffers knife attack in prison", The Guardian, 1 June 2004.
- "Bamber claims £1m from family", BBC News, 18 August 2003; John Ezard, "Murder family sued by killer", The Guardian, 19 August 2003.
- "On This Day," The Times, 29 October 1986.
- "Killer's family cash claim fails", BBC News, 6 October 2004.
- Tom Whitehead, "Notorious killers can die behind bars, rules Europe", The Daily Telegraph, 17 January 2012.
Caroline Davies, "Jeremy Bamber wins right to European appeal over whole-life sentence", The Guardian, 19 July 2012.
Cited works and further reading
- Lee, Carol Ann. (2015). The Murders at White House Farm: Jeremy Bamber and the killing of his family. The Definitive Investigation. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-07222-2
- Lomax, Scott (2008). Jeremy Bamber: Evil, Almost Beyond Belief?. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-752-49630-6
- Wilkes, Roger (1994). Blood Relations: Jeremy Bamber and the White House Farm Murders. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024200-7
- "Jeremy Bamber", a selection of articles from The Guardian
- The Jeremy Bamber Campaign "Why Jeremy is Innocent" e-book
- In 2015 American broadcasters 'The Generation Why Podcast' independently featured the White House Farm Murders in a debate: http://thegenerationwhypodcast.com/podcast/white-house-farm-murders-141-generation-why
- Crimes That Shook Britain featured the White House Farm Murders in 2011 starring Johnny Escobar