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Jeremy Bamber case: Why has the CCRC failed to consider the Dickinson review for 27 years?

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

A hand-written note made by Dickinson destroys the entire police case against Jeremy Bamber because it shows that PC Myall received a telephone call from PC West at 03:37, who was in the control room at Chelmsford Police Station, with Jeremy Bamber kept ‘on hold’ on another telephone.

When the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) refused to refer Jeremy Bamber’s case to the Court of Appeal in April 2012[1] it listed the documentation that it had consulted in reaching their decision. Included in the list is “Papers from the Dickinson Review (Essex Police internal enquiry).” The CCRC had been reviewing Bamber’s case since March 2004 but in the eight years spent on that particular submission the CCRC failed to uncover evidence of Bamber’s innocence, which was subsequently found by his Innocence Campaign, as shown below.

In addition to failing to find the evidence uncovered by Dickinson the CCRC also failed to investigate the evidence of Bamber’s innocence found by two senior detectives, Chief Inspector Thomas ‘Taff’ Jones and Superintendent James Kenneally.

In November 1986, after the trial of Jeremy Bamber, the Judge, Mr. Justice Drake, ordered an enquiry into the conduct of Essex Police following widespread ridicule in the Press regarding how Bamber had allegedly fooled the police into accepting a murder/suicide scenario. The Chief Constable of the Essex constabulary, Mr. Robert Bunyard, directed the ‘investigation’ and Detective Chief Superintendent James Dickinson of Essex Police, assisted by DI Storey, conducted the enquiry.

While the enquiry was ‘ordered’ not for the purpose of questioning the guilt of Jeremy Bamber, it nevertheless gave Dickinson an opportunity to examine the decision-making process of police officers involved in investigating the case. However, the most important participant, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas ‘Taff’ Jones was not available, having died pre-trial in a reported accident at his home when he had fallen off a ladder. According to his report, Dickinson chose not to probe too deeply into Jones’ investigation, claiming not to have had access to any of the large quantities of investigative materials collated by DCI Jones. According to Dickinson’s handwritten notes he was aware of a separate investigation by Superintendent James Kenneally, and it follows that Dickinson certainly had access to, and had to have been aware of the review in which Kenneally confirmed that all the evidence showed that Bamber’s sister, Sheila Caffell, was responsible for the killings.[2] There exist two investigations that concluded that Bamber is innocent. It appears that the CCRC has not examined materials from either of them.

James Dickinson had no intention of exposing any wrongdoing. For example:

The pathologist Dr Vanezis was interviewed after the trial during the Dickinson investigation. His original handwritten statement stated that:

“The result of the post-mortem examinations of Sheila was death was due to gunshot wounds – My examination did not reveal anything to contradict the suicide theory. And I must say although I could not from my own examination confirm murder or suicide, from what I had been told suicide was a high probability.”

When typed up in Dickinson’s report, the meaning of his evidence had been completely altered as it now stated that:

“The result of the post-mortem examinations of Sheila was death was due to gunshot wounds – My examination did not reveal anything to contradict the suicide theory. And I must say although I could not from my own examination confirm murder or suicide, from what I had been told murder was a high probability.”[3]

The Defence were not shown the hand-written version of Vanezis’ statement only being allowed to see the typed copy. This alteration of Dr Vanezis’ evidence led to the Defence deciding that they could not call him to give evidence at the 2002 appeal hearing. They believed quite wrongly that Dr Vanezis would be a hostile witness due to his conclusion that “Murder was a high probability,” when it is now known this wasn’t what he had said at all.

Crucially, the CCRC is the only body in the UK that can demand to see the evidence of Sheila Caffell’s guilt collected by Jones and Kenneally, but it appears that it has failed to require Essex Police to release the documentation. It is widely known among those interested in the case that two police enquiries identified Sheila Caffell as the killer. How can the CCRC have no interest in examining the work of two extensive enquiries that concluded that Sheila Caffell killed her family in a case that has involved a man claiming for 37 years that he is innocent?

Dickinson spent about a week reviewing the police conduct of the investigation into the White House Farm murder investigation. The investigation consisted of interviews with Police officers and witnesses, but no ‘formal’ statements were taken, although statements and other material submissions from pre-trial were used during the enquiry. Dickinson carried out interviews and made handwritten notes for each witness.

The Dickinson report was an account which relied heavily on the ill-informed and biased interpretation of events supplied by Jeremy Bamber’s relatives and in particular his uncle Robert Boutflour. It was only after the failed 2002 Appeal that extensive handwritten accounts of interviews conducted by Dickinson were disclosed to the defence although Bamber and his campaigners did not receive the information until 2011. Dickinson’s review was a blatant character assassination and presented Jeremy Bamber in a prejudiced way using the accounts of Julie Mugford and Robert Boutflour to provide a depiction of Bamber as a money hungry sexual predator who was also engaged in “unsavoury homosexual activities.”[4]

One of the most contentious issues about the case, which has persisted for 37 years, is whether the police received a telephone call from Nevill Bamber at 03:26 advising the police that his daughter Sheila Caffell had got hold of one of his guns. The police say that the phone call to Chelmsford Police Station at around 03:26 was made by Jeremy Bamber, not Nevill, and that Jeremy Bamber was impersonating his father. The police also say that there was no second phone call at 03:36.[5] The police officer who received the telephone call, PC Michael West, was adamant that he had not made a mistake in reading a clock and the time of the phone call by Jeremy Bamber was 03:36. The Judge, Maurice Drake, without any supporting evidence, insisted that West had to be mistaken and stated that the phone call was received by West at 03:26. By finding Bamber guilty, the Jury implicitly accepted the prosecution version of events. We now know that they were wrong, and Jeremy Bamber told the truth, due to the discovery in 2020 of notes made by Detective Chief Superintendent James Dickinson in November 1986.

These handwritten notes reveal that contrary to evidence given at Bamber’s trial, Essex police officers did not leave Witham police station until after 03:37 when one of the officers, PC Myall, was engaged in a telephone conversation with another police officer, PC West.

The information in the scrap of paper reproduced above from hand-written notes made by Dickinson destroys the entire police case against Jeremy Bamber because it shows that PC Myall received a telephone call from PC West at 03:37, who was in the control room at Chelmsford Police Station, with Jeremy Bamber kept ‘on hold’ on another telephone. It confirms that PC West was telling the truth when he said at Jeremy’s trial that Jeremy telephoned him at 03:36 and that the Judge was wrong to insist that West was mistaken.

The extracts above are from the previously undisclosed notebook of PC Myall show that he, in police vehicle CA7, left Witham police station at 03:39, immediately after Myall spoke to PC West at 03:37. Below Myalls’ entry is the notebook of PS Bews who wrote that they left Witham at 03:40. Neither officer disclosed this in their disclosed witness statements. The discovery of these previously non-disclosed documents thus confirms that CA7 did not proceed to White House Farm at 03:35 as recorded by civilian radio operator Malcolm Bonnett on seemingly forged HQ incident reporting documentation. This discovery throws into doubt the veracity of the entire police documentation of the incident, suggesting that much of the paperwork may have been forged.

What also remains to be discovered by the CCRC are the handwritten witness statements that the Witham police officers, PS Bews, PC Myall and PC Saxby left in the in-tray of DCI Taff Jones. These witness statements were written immediately after the incident but have never been seen since. It is assumed that they contain valuable contemporaneous information, including perhaps the true time of the phone call from PC West to PC Myall. Indeed, it appears that the CCRC have never requested to be given access to any of the copious documentation gathered by Taff Jones under his investigation. For the CCRC, charged with the responsibility of investigating Bamber’s plea of innocence, this is an obvious start point for a Case Review Manager trying to get to the truth of what happened at White House Farm.

James Dickinson was aware of the facts outlined above in November 1986 and, presumably for the sake of protecting the reputation of Essex Police and for his personal career benefit (he was promoted after presenting his report), he has left Jeremy Bamber imprisoned for life knowing that the evidence suggested that various police officers and civilians had perjured themselves and that Bamber is innocent.

Since the CCRC was opened, aptly on April Fool’s Day in 1995, it has had 27 years in which to examine in detail the contents of the Dickinson Review. It has failed to look beyond the bland and utterly biased content of the typed report. In confirmation of what numerous frustrated applicants to the CCRC say, it has ‘failed to investigate’. It should be obvious to the CCRC that police officers write official reports that contradict the evidence that has been collated during an investigation. This has happened throughout the history of policing and was a major factor in the release of the Guildford Four. These contradictory notes are often filed away in the expectation that nobody will ever see them. In the case of the handwritten notes from the Bamber case reproduced above, they only came to light as a result of good fortune; Dickinson could have locked them away in 1986 confident that nobody would ever see the detailed records of his review.

The scraps of handwritten notes reproduced above had to be discovered after thousands of hours of meticulous research by dedicated volunteers working for the Jeremy Bamber Innocence Campaign. After Bamber’s unsuccessful appeal against his conviction in 2002, a number of documents were given to his legal advisors. Even though his Lawyer, Barrister and QC had them in their possession, these documents were ‘protected’ under Public Interest Immunity (PII) and Bamber was not allowed access to them. During 2006, a Supreme Court Judgement[6] changed the rules regarding PII and it became possible for the documents to be disclosed and the legal advisors gave them to Jeremy in 2011, after a delay caused deliberately by the police, of five years.

But the notes could have been found 20 years earlier and quite possibly led to the release of Jeremy Bamber. The simple fact is that in order to discover the truth it is necessary to leave the comfort of a CCRC desk and open dusty cardboard boxes in cold gloomily lit storage cupboards in the bowels of police headquarters.

Clearly, CCRC staff are not prepared to do so, and as a result innocent people remain in prison and corrupt police officers remain undetected. The obvious reticence of the CCRC to expose corruption and perjury must have become common knowledge among police officers. For example, not a single case of perjury by anyone in the UK has been reported by the CCRC for investigation in the past five years.[7] The police can operate in the almost certain knowledge that their sins will likely never be exposed because the CCRC are laxed to probe beyond the official account of events.

What hope is there for applicants to the CCRC when their standard response is to refuse to investigate and refuse to conduct forensic testing? The statements of police officers are seldom regarded with suspicion. Yet, with regard to the Bamber case, after the discovery of a few pieces of handwritten notes, some simple truths emerge:

1. PC Michael West received two separate phone calls, one at 03:26 from Nevill Bamber and one at 03:36 from Jeremy Bamber.

2. The Judge misled the Jury over the timing of telephone calls.

3. The Witham police officers could not have been in their police car en route to White House Farm at 03:35 as recorded on police documentation because PC Myall was discussing the incident at 03:37 during a phone call from PC West.

4. PS Bews pocket notebook records them leaving Witham at 03:40.

5. Police incident log documentation appears to have been forged to facilitate the deception.

6. PS Bews, PC West, PC Myall and PC Saxby have all known, for 37 years, that Jeremy Bamber has been wrongly convicted of murdering his family.

7. Despite hearing from PC Myall that Jeremy Bamber’s phone call was on hold at 03:37, indicating that Bamber called the police at 03:36, Dickinson stated in his official report that Jeremy Bamber telephoned the police at 03:26[8]

8. James Dickinson has known for 37 years that Jeremy Bamber is innocent

Applicants to the CCRC have a right to expect that all relevant materials will be considered by the CCRC and that the CCRC will make an effort to find new evidence. In spending eight years to review and reject Bamber’s 2004 submission the CCRC has utterly failed to probe Dickinson’s review in any meaningful way; seeming to accept at face value the content of the official report. Is this what the CCRC mean when they say, “The Commission has considered”?


[1] Letter from Scott Marcroft, Case Review Manager CCRC 24 April 2012. [2] After a full investigation into the tragedies by DCI Taff Jones, and another review and report by DI Kenneally (both suggested that Sheila was responsible for the killings), something most unusual happened. Both investigators were taken off the case. Almost all traces of DI Kenneally and his investigation were wiped from case history until the discovery of two documents relating to his involvement and report came to light during 2013. [3]Holmes 8/258A) Pathology (12/11/86) PDF, and Holmes 8/258B) Pathology Extract(12/11/86) PDF. [4] HOLMES 24.61 COLP documentation mentioning unsavoury homosexual activities - Boutflour. “Mr. R. BOUTFLOUR cited many incidents concerning J. BAMBER's unsavoury character, ranging from suspected homosexual activities to stealing money from Osea Caravan Site. There seems to be a deep hatred of Jeremy Bamber and what he has done to Mr. R. BOUTFLOUR's family. In my view, this understandable hatred has coloured Mr. BOUTFLOUR’s recollection of events but not when it comes to hard facts.” [5] Initially, the police appeared to acknowledge that there were two separate phone calls as they carried out experiments to discover how long it took to ride a bicycle from White House Farm to Bamber’s home address. It would appear that at some point the police decided to abandon a possible theory that Jeremy Bamber had made one phone call from WHF where he impersonated his father (03:26) and a second phone call after arriving home (03:36). [6] Taylor v Anderton (Police Complaints Authority Interviewing), Ante, at Pg. 465 (Archibald, 2006 Pg. 1356 [7] CCRC reply to an FOI request 2022. [8] Dickinson Report paragraphs 96-102.

Bill Robertson has researched alleged miscarriages of justice for around 20 years and advised on several cases, including the most recent application to the CCRC by Jeremy Bamber.

Please let us know if you think that there is a mistake in this article, explaining what you think is wrong and why. We will correct any errors as soon as possible.

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