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The White House Farm tragedy case construction: Are the CCRC unable to see the wood for the trees?

White House Farm at Tolleshunt d'Arcy, Essex

All senior police officers leading an investigation into a serious crime are acutely aware of the concept of ‘case construction’ and adhere to its principles with almost religious devotion. This invariably leads to a narrative being constructed with the delivery in court of an adversarial commitment to persuasion of the jury that the police account is the only possible (believable) correct version of events, and anything offered by the defence is a cunning falsehood that attempts to mislead the jury.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has had three opportunities to consider submissions made on behalf of Jeremy Bamber, who was convicted of five murders in 1986, but has failed to take into account the possibility of a mistaken case construction by Detective Chief Superintendent (DCSpt.) (Acting) Michael Ainsley of Essex Police, as outlined below.

When the prosecution case is based upon problematic or erroneous evidence the only hope for a wrongly convicted person is for the CCRC to conduct a thorough investigation that exposes the falsehood(s). All hope lies with the CCRC, the only body that can demand access to evidence with the potential to exonerate the accused person. Unfortunately, more often than not, the CCRC refuses to investigate, preferring instead to seek evidence that supports the prosecution case.

The White House Farm murders and the conviction of Jermy Bamber for killing five members of his family is based primarily upon one supposition by the prosecution. That is, that a tiny flake of blood discovered inside a sound moderator (silencer) came from Bamber’s sister, Sheila Caffell. The court were assured that the flake of blood was unique to her. It is now known that this contention is incorrect, and that the jury were, tehrefore, misled. But how can anyone force the CCRC to find the evidence that proves this when it involves investigative work that the CCRC is loath to undertake?

The original concept of ‘case construction’ is usually associated with McConville, Sanders and Leng (1991) and their major study of police practices and investigation entitled “The Case for the Prosecution”. The idea principally involves the practice by the police of interpretation, addition, subtraction, selection, manipulation and re-formulation, or in some cases creation, of information to form a prosecution case.[1]

Obviously, the preparation of any prosecution case will in some sense require a case construction. Used in this context though, case construction implies that the narrative is built not on a balanced and open minded weighing of evidence and alternatives but on underlying assumptions or biases which create an orientation towards a partial or prejudiced interpretation and selection of evidence.

This is particularly obvious in the case of Jeremy Bamber when two separate police investigations, one by a Detective Chief Inspector and another by a Detective Superintendent, found that Bamber’s sister, Sheila Caffell, killed four members of her family before taking her own life. It is extraordinary that a third police investigation should come up with an entirely different narrative for the events of 6/7 August 1985 which was favoured by the prosecution. It is equally remarkable that the CCRC has taken no notice of the two police investigations that cleared Bamber of any responsibility for the deaths and, instead, has focused entirely upon the third narrative compiled by DC Spt. Ainsley who, it is known, took exhibits from the case to his home address and destroyed them in 2010.

In ignoring two police investigations that exonerated Bamber, the CCRC has, arguably, failed in its duty to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice in favour of desk-top reviews of the case material compiled by DC Spt. Ainsley which is riddled with in excess of 100 factual errors (see here). Does the CCRC not find it suspicious that two thorough previous investigations exonerated Bamber?

But, this is what happens when the police construct a case that has been put before a jury and achieved a ‘guilty’ verdict. Once a guilty verdict has been delivered by a jury a number of principles that greatly disadvantage the defendant are adhered to by the Court of Appeal (CoA). Primarily, this involves the refusal of the CoA to hear any evidence that is not ‘new’, and this includes evidence that could have been available at the time of the trial but for some reason was not given to the jurors for consideration.

In the Bamber case, the CCRC have been asked on three occasions to consider ‘new’ evidence and the CCRC has rejected submissions on the basis that the evidence is not new, or that it could have been presented at the trial.

Foremost in the evidence that the CCRC have been asked to examine is the sound moderator or ‘silencer’ evidence, which more than any other aspect of evidence seems to have swayed the jury to a 10:2 majority verdict. Outright falsehoods occurred at the trial in respect of evidence given about this vital issue.[2]

In 2012, when rejecting Bamber’s submissions (made initially in 2004), the CCRC stated that It was the Crown's case that Sheila Caffell, even though she had suffered two wounds, the first of which was not fatal, could not have shot herself and then replaced the sound moderator in the gun cupboard. In addition, tests had shown that it would have been physically impossible for Shella to have shot herself with the sound moderator attached to the end of the rifle because it would have been too long for her to reach. The evidence of her blood group in the silencer was, therefore, presented as conclusive evidence that she did not shoot herself.

Further, even without the evidence of the blood in the silencer, the Crown said that it was impossible to believe that Sheila had killed herself. The Crown suggested that it was unbelievable that someone who had just murdered four people, would, on finding that she could not reach to fire the rifle with the sound moderator on it, have removed the silencer, put it away in the cupboard, and then gone upstairs and shot herself. (Quite why this was unbelievable was never explained – Sheila Caffell was a paranoid schizophrenic who was incapable at times of rational behaviour).

The CCRC said in paragraphs 284-288:

Source of the AK1 enzyme found in the sound moderator.

It has been asserted that it is possible that the AK1 enzyme found in the blood in the sound moderator and which was used to link the blood to Sheila Caffell through grouping could in fact have been derived from animal blood. It is suggested that the AK1 enzyme can be found in rabbit blood and would be indistinguishable from human AK1 if it mixed with the blood in the silencer. The Commission is directed to manuscript notes that appear to suggest that animal blood was present on the outside of the silencer. Therefore it is argued that, if the presence of AK1 is discounted, the likelihood of the blood originating from Sheila is significantly reduced and therefore this piece of evidence does not have the major significance that was placed upon it at trial.

The Commission considers that this assertion is based upon a misinterpretation of the evidence given at trial. At trial, Mr. Hayward gave evidence of his analysis of human blood found on the baffles inside the sound moderator. He obtained reactions for Group A and EAP BA and also for AK1 and HP 2-1. PGM grouping had not proved possible. The constituents of the blood found in the moderator corresponded to the constituents of Sheila Caffell's blood but not entirely to those of anyone else”.[3]

Worryingly, given that the CCRC had had 17 years in total to get the facts straight, in their conclusion outlined above they had simply regurgitated the erroneous, inaccurate, and outright untruthful information given at the trial.

The Trial

Forensic scientist John Hayward testified as follows in reference to a small flake of blood said to have been found inside the silencer:

Hayward: I found that this blood was also of human origin, and I obtained grouping reactions for group A PGM1+EAP BA AK1 Hp 2-1.

Q) Mr Arlidge: Looking at those items you have given… it appears that those correspond with the grouping that you found for Sheila Caffell?

A) Hayward: That is correct Sir

However, that testimony is false in two respects (a) Hayward did not actually test any of the blood, it was cut into five tiny pieces and analysed by five separate junior staff, and (b) chart notations by his five junior staff show conclusively that Hayward did not have two consistent results in the HP2-1 group nor in the AK1 group, nor in the ABO A grouping.

Therefore, his own criteria for blood testing, i.e. the necessity to have two confirmed results, was not met by the sample analysed and, in respect of the first two questions asked by the Jury regarding the blood in the silencer being a “perfect match of Sheila’s blood”, the truth is that only one single blood group had two consistent tests, EAP and BA. Was John Hayward deliberately misleading the court when he said that the blood found in the silencer was a match for Sheila Caffell and that he had any involvement in analysing it or was it an unintentional error?

It is instructive on this point to consider the following exchange that took place in relation to blood found inside the silencer between the prosecution and the witness:

  • "Q) Mr Arlidge: Did you test further any of that blood?

  • A) Hayward: I did, Sir, and found that this blood was also of human origin, and I obtained grouping reactions for group A PGM1+EAP BA AK1 Hp 2-1.

  • Q) Mr Arlidge: Looking at those items you have given…it appears that those correspond with the grouping that you found for Sheila Caffell?

  • A) Hayward: That is correct Sir

  • Q) Mr Arlidge: But not with anybody else on our list?

  • A) Hayward: That is correct Sir.”

The list that Arlidge referred to contained the names of the five victims plus Jeremy Bamber. Therefore, Mr Hayward answered truthfully that the only person on that list with the blood group A PGM1+EAP BA AK1 Hp 2-1 was Sheila Caffell.

However, Mr Hayward was aware that blood samples had been taken from some of Jeremy Bamber’s relatives and the blood as reported was also an identical match for Robert Boutflour. Mr Hayward did not disclose this to the Court, neither did anyone else on behalf of the prosecution.


Ainsley’s case construction failed to reveal any information about the blood test results that cast doubt upon the false statement that the blood in the silencer was a perfect match for Sheila Caffell. The defence was unaware that Hayward had given false evidence and the CCRC as of 2012 was completely fooled by the evidence given by Hayward.

How can it be that ‘amateur’ researchers with access to a small amount of case materials can discover these anomalies while the CCRC, with theoretical access to every one of four million case documents are unable to find the relevant information exposing the truth about the alleged blood in the silencer?

Simply because the ‘amateurs’ are motivated to look where the CCRC refuses to probe. The truth about the blood sample analyses is found in handwritten forensic science notes, not the partial evidence constructed by Hayward/Ainsley.

The CCRC staff prefer to spend months and years making desk-top analyses of documentation that supports the prosecution case rather than look at the original blood test results and see for themselves that what the prosecution claim is false.

Senior police officers schooled in the process of case construction can produce biased and one-sided case papers safe in the knowledge that they will remain unchallenged. In 1986 when the Bamber trial took place, did DC Spt. Ainsley know that the vast majority of the forensic evidence would not be subject to any further examination or questioning for the foreseeable future and as such his case construction could be based upon outright falsehood or did he just make a mistake caused by tunnel vision in the quest to convict Jeremy Bamber for the murders at White House Farm? If it is the latter (mistake) then why when the case became subject to further scrutiny did he remove exhibits, take them home and destroy them?[4]

The CCRC have failed to date to seek the evidence that could disprove everything that was said in court regarding blood allegedly found in the silencer. How much longer can this state of affairs be allowed to continue?

By Bill Robertson

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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