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What is the story of the White House Farm murders in Essex?

PUBLISHED: 19:00 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:36 08 January 2020

White House Farm in Tolleshunt D'arcy Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

White House Farm in Tolleshunt D'arcy Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

A new television drama will retell one of the most infamous and brutal crimes in British history but what is the full story behind the White House Farm family murders in Essex?

Jeremy Bamber arrives at the Court of Appeal in London in 2002 Picture: PAJeremy Bamber arrives at the Court of Appeal in London in 2002 Picture: PA

ITV's new six part series - White House Farm - begins Wednesday at 9pm and tells the true story of how 24-year-old Jeremy Bamber murdered his adoptive parents, sister and nephews near Tolleshunt D'Arcy in August 1985.

Bamber, who was convicted of the killings 14 months later, has always maintained his innocence. But who is he and what happened in the case?

Who is Jeremy Bamber?

Jeremy Bamber was born Jeremy Marsham in 1961 and adopted by June and Nevill Bamber when he was six months old.

Jeremy Bamber and girlfriend Julie Mugford at the funeral of three members of his family a year before he was convicted of their murders Picture: PAJeremy Bamber and girlfriend Julie Mugford at the funeral of three members of his family a year before he was convicted of their murders Picture: PA

He boarded at Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk, from September 1970 but left with no qualifications.

He later passed seven O-levels at sixth form college in Colchester before embarking on a trip to Australia and New Zealand, which was paid for by his father.

He returned to England in 1982 and began working on his parents' farm. He lived rent-free in a cottage, owned by Nevill, in the village of Goldhanger around three miles away from White House Farm.

Who were the victims?

White House Farm starts on January 8 on ITV Picture: ITVWhite House Farm starts on January 8 on ITV Picture: ITV

Bamber's parents Nevill and June, both 61, were shot, along with his model sister Sheila "Bambi" Caffell, 26, and her six-year-old twins Daniel and Nicholas during the night of August 6-7, 1985, at White House Farm.

Twenty five shots were fired from a .22 Anschütz semi-automatic rifle, mostly at close range.

Murder/suicide theory

Essex Police initially believed that Sheila, who had mental health problems, had murdered her own family before turning the gun on herself.

Mark Addy as DS Stan Jones in the new drama White House Farm Picture: ITVMark Addy as DS Stan Jones in the new drama White House Farm Picture: ITV

Shelia, who had worked as a model, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had spent time being treated at a private facility in Northampton.

The murder-suicide theory had been supported by the media in the early stages but Detective Sergeant Stan Jones had doubts and turned his attention to Bamber, whose behaviour had raised suspicions.

Statements from Bamber's girlfriend

A month after the murders, Bamber's girlfriend Julie Mugford changed her statement to police, now alleging that he told her that he planned to kill his family.

Mark Addy as DS Stan Jones and Stephen Graham as DCI 'Taff' Jones  Picture: STUART WOOD/ITVMark Addy as DS Stan Jones and Stephen Graham as DCI 'Taff' Jones Picture: STUART WOOD/ITV

She had initially supported him and originally told police Bamber had called her at home on August 7 between 3am and 3.30am and sounded worried.

In her second statement, she said she had spent the weekend before the murders with Bamber in his cottage in Goldhanger and alleged that he had called her on August 6 to say he had been thinking about the crime all day and it was "tonight or never".

Bamber was arrested following the second statement.

Prosecution case

The prosecution argued that Bamber, motivated by a large inheritance and hatred of his parents, had killed the family with Nevill's semi-automatic rifle before putting the weapon in his sister's hands to give the impression of a murder/suicide.

After being at his parents' home on August 6, Bamber had returned to White House Farm on his mother's bicycle in the early hours of August 7 and approached the house from the back, entering through a downstairs bathroom window, according to the prosecution.

The prosecution said a silencer on the rifle would have made it too long for Sheila to reach the trigger to shoot herself.

The silencer played a crucial role in the case. It was not on the gun when police discovered the bodies but was instead found by one of Bamber's cousins three days after the murders in a ground-floor gun cupboard.

The prosecution said if Sheila had shot her family with the silencer, then realized the gun was too long to shoot herself, the silencer would have been discovered next to her body.

Prosecutors said Bamber arranged the scene, removed the silencer and put it back into the cupboard before placing a bible next to Sheila and taking the phone off its hook.

This was to make it look as though Nevill had made a call to Bamber to say Sheila had "gone crazy", which Bamber had told police when he called them, the prosecution said.

Prosecutors also argued that there was no blood on the kitchen phone which had been left off the hook, and that Nevill would have called the police before calling his son.

Defence case

The defence said Julie Mugford had lied about Bamber's confession and witnesses who said he disliked his family were also lying or misinterpreted his words.

No-one had seen Bamber cycle to or from the farm, the defence said, and there were no marks on him that indicated he had been in a fight or struggle on the day in question.

He had not driven to the farm after receiving a call from Nevill because he was afraid, the defence said.

The defence argued that Sheila, with her history of mental illness, had killed her family and knew how to handle guns having grown up on a farm.

Trial, verdict and sentence

Bamber's trial opened at Chelmsford Crown Court on October 3, 1986 and lasted 18 days.

The prosecution was led by Anthony Arlidge QC, and the defence by Geoffrey Rivlin QC, supported by Ed Lawson QC.

After hearing the case, the jury took nine-and-a-half hours to reach their verdict and found Bamber guilty by a majority of ten to two on October 28.

Judge Maurice Drake sentenced Bamber to five life terms with a recommendation that he serve at least 25 years in prison.

In 1994, Bamber was told he would spend the rest of his life in prison on a whole-life tariff without the possibility of parole.

Appeals

Bamber, now 58, has appealed his conviction several times and the case has been subject to reviews by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In October this year, Bamber launched a fresh bid to clear his name, with his lawyers claiming an unearthed police telephone record could help prove he did not carry out the killings.

Essex Police say there has never been any evidence to suggest he has been wrongly convicted.

A campaign to secure his release continues and he currently remains in prison at HM Prison Wakefield in Yorkshire.

White House Farm begins on ITV on Wednesday, January 8 at 9pm.

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