Vincent Tabak and The Murder of Joanna Yeates

Joanna Yeates went missing on 17th December 2010, after an evening out with colleagues. Her body was discovered on 25th December 2010 3 miles from her home. Vincent Tabak, a neighbour of Joanna's, was arrested on 22 January 2011, and at his trial pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Joanna Yeates, but he denied her murder.

The Disappearance and Murder of Joanna Yeates

Source: mirror.co.uk

At around 8pm on 19th December 2010 Greg Reardon, Joanna's boyfriend, returned to their home after a weekend trip to Sheffield and found Joanna absent from their flat. He'd been trying to call and text her without success. He waited for her to return home and tried once more to call her, but her phone rang from inside a pocket in a coat in the flat. He found Joanna's purse and keys in the flat, and he found their cat had been neglected. Shortly after half past midnight he called her parents and the police to report Joanna missing.

Called "Operation Braid" the investigation of Joanna Yeates's disappearance and murder comprised 80 detectives and civilian staff under the direction of Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, a senior officer with Avon and Somerset Constabulary's major crime investigation unit. 

Police examined over 100 hours of surveillance footage and seized 293 tonnes(293,000kg) of rubbish from the area around Joanna Yeates's flat. Crime Stoppers offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her murderer, while the Sun newspaper offered £50,000. Women were warned not to walk alone after dark and people in the area were warned to secure their homes.

Investigators determined Joanna Yeates had spent the evening of 17th December 2010 with colleagues at the pub, and left around 8pm to make the 30 minute walk home. She was seen on CCTV footage at around 8:10pm leaving a Waitrose. Joanna then called her best friend, at 8:30pm, to arrange a meet up on Christmas Eve. The last known footage of Joanna Yeates showed her buying a pizza from Tesco Express at around 8:40pm, and she bought two small bottles of cider at a nearby off-licence.

Detectives found no evidence of the pizza, or it's packaging. Both bottles of cider were found in the flat, one of them had been partially consumed. As there was no evidence of forced entry or a struggle, investigators began to examine the possibility that she may have known her abductor.

On 25th December 2010 a fully clothed body was found by a couple who were out walking their dogs along Longwood Lane near a golf course approximately 3 miles from Joanna Yeates's home. The body was declared as that of Joanna Yeates. Greg Reardon and Joanna's family visited the site of the discovery on 27th December 2010.

Police urged the public to come forward with any information, especially potential witnesses who were in the area of Longwood Lane just before Joanna's body was discovered.

On 26th December 2010 a post mortem began, but results were delayed due to the frozen condition of the body. Police originally thought Joanna had frozen to death because her body showed no visible signs of injury, but on 28th December 2010 it was announced the investigation had become a murder inquiry after the pathologist determined Joanna Yeates had died as a result of strangulation. The post mortem indicated she had died "several days before being discovered." and that Joanna hadn't eaten the pizza she'd bought. 

Initially police suspected and arrested Christopher Jefferies, Joanna's landlord, who lived in the same building. He was subsequently released without charge, but was villified in the press.

About Vincent Tabak

Born on 10th February 1978 Vincent Tabak was a dutch engineer who had lived and worked in the United Kingdom since 2007. The youngest of 5 siblings he was raised in Uden, 21 miles north Eindhoven in the Netherlands. A childhood next-door neighbour described him as an intelligent "introverted" loner. He studied at Eindhoven University of Technology, graduating in 2003 with an MSc in architecture, building and planning. 

Vincent Tabak moved to the UK after leaving university in 2007 and took a job at the headquarters of Buro Happold, an engineering consultancy firm in Bath. While living in Bath he established a relationship with a woman he met through an online dating service. She was later described by a newspaper as his first serious girlfriend. He paid tribute to her in the acknowledgements of his thesis saying "I am very happy she entered my life". The couple moved to a flat in Canynge Road, Bristol, in June 2009. Although Joanna Yeates and her partner moved into a neighbouring flat in late 2010 she and Tabak didn't meet prior to 17th December.

In the months leading up to Joanna Yeates's death, Tabak used his computer to research escort agencies during business trips in the UK and US, and contacted several sex workers by telephone. He viewed violent internet pornography that depicted women being controlled by men, showing images of them being bound and gagged, held by the neck and choked. During the murder investigation police found images of a woman who bore a striking resemblance to Joanna Yeates. In one scene she was shown pulling up a pink top to expose her bra and breasts. When Joanna was discovered she was wearing a similarly arranged pink top.

After killing Joanna Yeates, Vincent Tabak attempted to cast suspicion for the murder onto Christopher Jefferies, after watching a news broadcast about the case while spending New Year with his relatives in the Netherlands. He contacted Avon and Somerset police to tell them Jefferies had used his car on the night of 17th December, and a CID officer, DC Karen Thomas, was sent to Amsterdam to talk to Tabak. They met at Amsterdam Schipol Airport on 31st December, where Tabak told more of his story. DC Thomas grew suspicious of his interest in the forensic work being carried out by the police and because what he said did not concur with a previous statement.

Mr Tabak said that having seen the footage he remembered seeing Mr Jefferies’ Volvo parked facing away from the road. The next morning, it was facing in the opposite direction, towards the road. The indication being that Mr Jefferies had moved his vehicle during the night.

Detective Constable Karen Thomas

Vincent Tabak was arrested on 22nd January 2011 and after 2 days of questioning was charged with the murder of Joanna Yeates.

At Trial

The trial of Vincent Tabak started on 4th October 2011 at Crown Court Bristol before Mr Justice Field and a jury. His counsel in the trial was William Clegg QC and the prosecutor was Nigel Lickley QC. Tabak pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied the murder of Joanna Yeates.

The prosecution's case was that he had strangled Joanna Yeates in her flat within minutes of her arrival home on 17th December 2010, using "sufficient force" to kill her. The prosecutors stated that he (Tabak) - around a foot (30cm) taller than Joanna - had used his height and build to overpower her, pinning her to the floor by the wrists, and that she suffered 43 separate injuries to her head, neck, torso and arms during the struggle. The injuries included cuts, bruises, and a fractured nose.

Nigel Lickley told the court that the struggle was lengthy, and Joanna Yeates's death would've been slow and painful. However he did not offer an explanation for the reasoning behind Tabak's initial attack on her. Nigel Lickley argued that the evidence of Vincent Tabak's activities should be provided to the jury saying, "it might shed light on the need to hold a woman for long enough and the need to squeeze hard enough to take her life." Details of Tabak's viewing pornography were not included in the prosecution's case since the judge believed it did not prove that Tabak had acted with premeditation.

Evidence presented in court suggested that Vincent Tabak had tried to conceal the crime by disposing of Joanna's body. The court heard that DNA swabs taken from Joanna Yeates's body had provided a match with Tabak. Samples from behind the knees of her jeans indicated she may have been held by the legs as she was carried, and fibres suggested contact with Tabak's coat and car. Blood stains were found on a wall overlooking a quarry close to where Joanna's body was found. The prosecution also said Vincent Tabak attempted to implicate Jefferies for the murder during the investigation, and that in the days following Joanna Yeates's death, he had made internet searches for topics that included the length of time a body takes to decompose and the dates of refuse collections in the Clifton area. 


In his defence Vincent Tabak claimed the murder had not been sexually motivated, and told the court he had killed Joanna while trying to silence her after she screamed when he tried to kiss her. He claimed that she'd made a "flirty comment" and invited him to have drinks with her. He said that after she screamed he held his hands over her mouth and around her neck to silence her. Tabak denied suggestions of a struggle, claiming to have held Yeates by the neck with only minimal force, and "... for about 20 seconds." He told the court after dumping the body he was "... in a state of panic".

The jury deliberated for 2 days before giving a guilty verdict by a majority of 10 to 2. Vincent Tabak was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 20 years.

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