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Jeremy Bamber and the CCRC's deference to the flawed pathology evidence of Dr Peter Vanezis

Dr Peter Vanezis MB, ChB, DMJ(Path), MD, PhD, member of the Royal College of Pathologists and a Fellow of the college (FRCPath); member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and fellow (FRCP(Glasg.) and a Founding Fellow of the Faculty of Forensic Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians in (FFFLM).

In this article, Bill Robertson highlights vital failings in the pathology evidence given at the trial of Jeremy Bamber by the renowned forensic pathologist Dr Peter Vanezis, which contributed significantly to his conviction. He asks: Is the CCRC refusing to refer Jeremy Bamber's conviction to the Court of Appeal because it is too deferential to such flawed expert evidence? A longer article that runs to over 40 pages which goes into greater detail about the failings of the evidence given by Dr Vanezis, detailing all of the 70 wounds on the bodies of Sheila Caffell and June and Nevil Bamber (which Dr Vanezis said did not exist) with photographic evidence can be provided to journalists on request.

The CCRC is very forgiving of flawed expert witness testimony. Their stance is essentially to accept the evidence of anyone deemed at trial to be an ‘expert’ as if it was inviolable. If doubts are raised after a trial about the veracity of expert witness opinion, the CCRC does little more than refer any criticism to the original ‘expert’ who gave evidence for comment. The CCRC is highly deferential to the Court of Appeal viewpoint that they do not like appellants to produce a “bigger and better” expert to challenge the original testimony.[i]

Is this the reason why, despite convincing evidence as outlined below, the CCRC has to date refused to refer Jeremy Bamber’s submission to the Court of Appeal?

The prosecution case against Jeremy Bamber alleges that he killed five members of his family using an Anschutz .22 calibre rifle. It is alleged that in doing so he encountered minimal resistance from the victims, and he suffered no injuries himself. Three adults seemingly did not manage to put up much resistance at all to his assaults.

In support of this contention, at Bamber’s trial the pathologist, Dr. Peter Vanezis, gave testimony that outlined bullet wound injuries to the deceased but omitted mention of other wounds. Indeed, Vanezis went as far as to deny the existence of any injuries other than bullet wounds. In particular, he said that Bamber’s sister, Sheila Caffell, suffered just two bullet wounds to her neck and no other injuries of any sort.

Examination of images of the deceased reveals approximately 35 injuries to Sheila Caffell not mentioned by Dr Vanezis and numerous wounds to her parents, June and Nevill Bamber, similarly ignored by Vanezis.

The existence of these wounds leads to an entirely different conclusion about what happened during the incident at White House Farm.

The worrying aspect about everything revealed in this article is that it could and should all have been discovered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) at least ten, perhaps twenty, years ago.

When Bamber is eventually released, he will have spent at least ten years unnecessarily in prison because CCRC staff did not bother to examine the evidence that they had in their sole possession.

What is the point of the CCRC if they don’t explore anything further than asking questions of police officers and expert witnesses who have a vested interest in keeping someone incarcerated?

Time and again, the CCRC have accepted at face value assurances that nothing was amiss in the prosecution case and the CCRC dismissed Bamber’s submissions in 2012.

The delayed release of Jeremy Bamber, the years stolen from him, are to a large part the fault of the CCRC, an agency that it supposed to help those wrongly convicted. The CCRC is a sham, set up by Government to give the appearance of dealing with miscarriages of justice. In many instances the CCRC contributes significantly to perpetuating the injustice.

Image 1 Sheila Caffell’s right arm.

Dr Peter Vanezis’ published autopsy report extract:

There was blood staining of her nightdress where her right wrist had been lying. This blood appeared to have been transferred from her wrist. There was also blood on both sides of her right forearm which had formed trails as well as some smearing and spotting.

Testimony at trial, answers are by Dr Vanezis:

Q) Did you see blood on her right forearm?

A) I did, yes

Q) And then you have got this blood on the forearm, which has got spots and then trails either to or from the spots?

A) Yes

Q) What can you say about those?

A) These trails of blood appear to have run vertically down the outer side of the arm

Q) Can you tell how that had occurred? Was that from a wound or did it come from somewhere else?

A) In my view these trails of blood were associated with substantial blood staining on the right side of the nightdress in the armpit area and below, as well as the blood from the neck region.

Q) When you say “associated” do you mean by that it had run directly from one of the other wounds, or had it fallen on to it, or what do you say?

A) All I can say is that blood had been transferred from that area on to the arm, and of course, had trailed

Q) Now, apart from the two gunshot wounds, was there any evidence of any other injury anywhere else on the body?

A) No, I could not find any evidence of any other injury

The Judge then asked a direct question about the possibility of a fight between Sheila and anyone else: -

Mr Justice Drake to the witness: No evidence of any other injury, what about the possibility that she had been involved in some fighting or scuffling to leave any sort of marks, other than what one might term “an injury”?

A) There was certainly no evidence of any other marks that could have been produced in a scuffle

Revealed by close examination of images:

Image 2, four wounds

Image 3, upper two wounds

The three upper “blood trails” reveal that there are clearly discernible cuts to the right or immediately above the blood clots in images 2 and 3, not visible in image 1.

The jury were shown the level of detail observable in image 1 and told that what they were seeing was trails of blood that had originated from a neck wound approximately two feet (60 cm) distant from the blood clots.

According to Vanezis, the scientific explanation for the four blood trails was that blood had flowed from one of the neck wounds down the arm and ended by clotting on the lower arm near the wrist.

Vanezis’ explanation is scientific gibberish and utter nonsense, but it was accepted without significant challenge by the judge and both the prosecution and defence, and the jury were incapable to challenge what he had said.

It can be seen in image 2 that contrary to what Vanezis said, the upper three blood trails do not originate from blood running down the arm from the neck region. The so-called blood trails are no more than 2 or 3 inches (50-75 mm) long.

The blood trails are thicker at the clot end than they are at the top of the image, indicating that the blood was flowing out from the vicinity of the clot and diminishing as it ran its course, ending a short distance from the original cut. The four trails of blood were probably caused by fingernail gouges to the arm caused during a fight for possession of the rifle, i.e., June Bamber attempting to wrestle the weapon away from Sheila Caffell.

In 1996 Vanezis released a book.[ii] On page 111 he says:

“A young female was found with a 0.22 semi-automatic rifle by her right side and two wounds in her neck (one being only a flesh wound). It was at first thought that she had killed herself after she had killed her two children, mother, and father. Sometime later, however, a silencer was retrieved from the gun cupboard with blood on the inside, the outside having been wiped. The brother was arrested and convicted of murdering all five members of his family. The latter case illustrates the need for comprehensive scene examination and maintaining a low threshold of suspicion in all cases, particularly where multiple deaths are involved” (emphasis added).

By 1996, he was saying that one of the neck wounds was “only a flesh wound”? He said at the trial that it lacerated the external jugular vein and could have killed her fairly quickly! He said that the person would have been “extremely sick” and “lose consciousness”.

Vanezis is clearly utterly unreliable and seemingly has no embarrassment in misrepresenting the facts.

I contacted Vanezis’ office in an attempt to engage him in conversation about his evidence. He did not reply.

There can be no doubt that Jeremy Bamber has been the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice. All the evidence used to convict him must now be regarded as deeply suspect, foremost the blood said to have been discovered in a sound moderator which, it is now clear, must have been ‘planted’. We demonstrated this in our article entitled Is the CCRC implicated in 36 years of deception in the case of Jeremy Bamber?, among other evidence we showed how blood belonging to Bamber’s relative David Boutflour had been discovered inside a silencer. Of course, this was not mentioned in court.

We hope that this article contributes to an honest and thorough review of Jeremy Bamber's claim of innocence by the CCRC and that his ongoing nightmare of (so far) 36 years in prison will soon come to an end.


[i] “It will not generally be open to an appellant without very good reason, to seek to call on appeal a “bigger and better expert” than was called at trial. CCRC Statement of Reasons. Quoted p124 ‘Reasons to Doubt’ , Hoyle and Sato. [ii] Suspicious Death Scene Investigation. Page 111. Edited by Vanezis/Busuttil, Arnold Press.

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. He serves as Deputy Editor of CCRC Watch.

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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