WARNING: GRAPHIC CRIME SCENE PHOTOS BELOW
A contested inheritance, planted evidence, a staged crime scene and five members of the same family dead. Jeremy Bamber’s name should be synonymous with true crime and a major Netflix hit by now, but unfortunately for him he was tried on the wrong side of the pond.
Unlike our judiciary loving friends in the US, UK courts and prisons do not allow full-blown media access to murder cases – maybe to the detriment of victims of wrongful convictions.
The White House Farm murders took place near the village of Tolleshunt D'Arcy, Essex, England, during the night of 6–7 August 1985. What happened that night has been contested since that day and only one man knows the truth... Dun Dun Duuuun!
“Sheila’s gone berserk!” are the words supposedly uttered to Jeremy Bamber, 24, by his father in a frenzied telephone call in the early hours of 7th August 1985 and surely would be the title of the opening episode in his Netflix show. Sheila, an adoptee like Jeremy, was the daughter of Nevill and June Bamber and only months before the crime had been receiving treatment for schizophrenia in a psychiatric unit.
It all seemed so obvious, Sheila was found dead with the barrel of a shotgun to her throat, June was found dead in the same room, her six-year-old twin sons slain in their beds and Nevill deceased in the kitchen. The family had been shot 25 times from close range. Some might have called it a closed case, however Jeremy Bamber sits behind bars and is one of only 75 people who were sentenced to a whole life tariff.
The list of whole life tariff prisoners is a who’s who of sadistic crime in the UK and his counterparts have included Rose West, Ian Brady, Denis Nilsen and The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. In short, he is considered one of the most dangerous and evil men in the UK and he will never see freedom again – but was he wrongly convicted?
Jeremy Bamber was a smart, wealthy looking, playboy type but in reality he worked for reasonably low wages on his father's farm after quitting a waiting job at a nearby little chef restaurant. However, he wanted more from life, and was said to be resentful of his adoptive parents lack of generosity. Just weeks before the murders Bamber admitted to breaking into a family camp site business to steal cash and ransack the place. All did not seem right with his relationship with his parents.
Throughout the trial he expressed little emotion, the jury were presented a stern and stoic man, a matter of fact portrayal of a grieving son. Whereas Sheila, also known as Bambi, was a beautiful, innocently captured photograph of a troubled mother and daughter. She had died along with her twin boys and her parents and only Jeremy remained. Could he really have been so callous to murder his own family for financial gain?
So, who's the defences star witness? It’s Julie Mugford, the then girlfriend of Jeremy Bamber, and it’s her revelation to the police that led to Bamber's arrest.
It could be argued that had Jeremy's relationship with Julie that he would still be a free man today but unfortunately for him he could not keep his playboy ways in check. Two weeks after the murders Julie found out he was having an affair and planning on leaving her. After heated rows that came to blows on the night of September 4th Julie Mugford changed her testimony. On September 7th she told the police that Jeremy had confided in her that he would kill his parents and called her on the night of the murders saying "it's now or never, tonight's the night". The next day Jeremy was arrested.
Can Julie Mugford be trusted? If so, was it stupidity or a psychopathic trait that made Bamber anger the only person he told about his horrific plan?
Now, we get to the internet arguments – the thing that gets a Netflix hit continuing in to the next season, the people who stand with the accused and those who stand against them, battling it out online. We need controversial evidence, we need it potentially planted and we need a flawed police investigation. Tick, tick, tick...
A month after the killings one of Jeremy’s cousins, who was also in line for the inheritance, found a silencer in the farm house that fitted the gun that Sheila held to her throat. The only problem is that if the silencer had been on the gun at the time of her death her reach would not have been long enough to pull the trigger on herself. Could Bamber have been framed by his extended family? Could Sheila have removed the silencer prior to her suicide? Could Bamber really have left the most incriminating piece of evidence inside the house? A forensic police search of the house failed to find the silencer whilst the first round of police photos failed to show scratches on the wall of the kitchen which the prosecution said were made by the silencer during a struggle between Jeremy and his father. The silencer is very much our Rav4 key in Steven Avery's bedroom.
Furthermore, Sheila and her mother both suffered from mental illness and had fervour for religion but instead of uniting them it fractured their relationship. The open bible next to Sheila’s body was not entered in to evidence or examined by police so the haunting hand written note inside the bible that read ‘love one another’ – the same slogan hung from the wall in Jonestown – went unheard.
Much has been written about the case and during 2002 the Guardian were passed a note from the father of Sheila’s twins who had indicated that her behaviour had become so erratic in the lead up to the murders that he thought for the safety of the children she should give up custody of them.
Sinister Isles corresponded with Bamber from his Wakefield prison cell and although he couldn’t reveal too much he told SI that they were very excited and eager to present new evidence to the courts.
Bamber, 58, has spent 33 years in prison and has always maintained his innocence.
This case could span a dozen episodes and more of a true crime documentary and so an article cannot do it justice, the wikipedia page is one of the most extensive I have seen for a murder case. You can also dig deeper here and here