Who killed Joanna Yeates? Where Vincent Tabak is now - and why Christopher Jeffries was wrongly accused

Channel 5’s two-part documentary, Body in the Snow, will revisit the crime and the evidence which led to her murderer’s arrest

It was crime which would lead to the wrongful accusations of a man who did nothing wrong, the murder of Joanna Yeates in December 2010 caused a media frenzy.

The 25-year-old architect was killed by her neighbour just days before Christmas, but it would be her landlord who would be blamed in the immediate aftermath.

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Channel 5’s new two-part documentary, Body in the Snow, will take a forensic look into her murder, the police investigation and how her killer was finally brought to justice.

So, what happened to her and who killed Joanna Yeates? This is what you need to know.

What happened to Joanna Yeates?

Joanna Yeates went missing on 17 December 2010, following a night out with her work colleagues at the Bristol Ram Pub on Park Street.

She was reported missing by her partner, Greg Reardon, when he returned home from a weekend away in Sheffield on 19 December. He had found her phone, coat and keys in their flat and their cat had been neglected.

The last known sighting of her was on CCTV, leaving a Tesco where she had bought a pizza. She told her friends that she planned to spend her weekend alone, baking and going Christmas shopping.

Her disappearance sparked a police appeal for anyone who knew of her whereabouts to come forward, as well as an extensive investigation. Her family launched a social media appeal for information and her parents and boyfriend took part in press conferences.

On Christmas morning, eight days after she was last seen alive, a couple found her fully clothed body at Longwood lane, near a quarry in Failand; she was partially covered with leaves.

She had been strangled, though having been left in snow it was originally thought she had died from the weather conditions as there were no obvious marks on her body.

Who killed Joanna Yeates?

On 28 December 2010, the police announced that her death was now being treated as a murder, following pathology tests which revealed she had died by strangulation days before she was found.

Reardon’s phone and laptop were seized  but he was quickly ruled out as a suspect.

Initially, attention turned to her landlord, a former English teacher who lived in the same apartment block.

On the morning of 30 December 2010, Christopher Jefferies was arrested and taken into custody for questioning. While in custody, several media outlets shared photos of him, used terms such as ‘creepy’ and ‘strange’, one also alleged pupils from his former school had said he made them feel “creeped out”.

Despite the trial by media, Mr Jefferies was released on bail on 4 January and cleared of any involvement two months later.

On 20 January 2011, police arrested 32-year-old Vincent Tabak after an anonymous female caller provided a tip off to police.

He had been staying with his partner in the flat next door to Joanna, he was also a tenant of Mr Jefferies.

Tabak had previously been interviewed but was not a suspect in the immediate days and weeks following Yeates death, he even told police during the disappearance investigation that Mr Jefferies’ car had moved in the days after Yeates disappearance.

He and his girlfriend had spent Christmas in the Netherlands where they were visiting family. Tabak’s girlfriend, Tanya Morson, contacted the police to give information about Jefferies when the body was found but Tabak’s series of events did not add up.

Following Tabak’s arrest, he admitted to killing Joanna when he was questioned following his arrest.

He claimed her murder took place inside her flat after she had invited him in for a drink and made “a flirty comment”. Tabak said he attempted to kiss her and she screamed, he then put his hands to her mouth to silence her, before he strangled her “for about twenty seconds.”

It was later revealed that Tabak had been accessing violent pornography in the months leading up to Yeates murder and one such video involved a woman who had a striking resemblance to that of Yeates.

Yeates was wearing a pink top at the time of her death which was similar to that of the model in the pornographic video.

Fibres found in Tabak’s car and coat were a match to those found on Joanna, as well as his DNA on her body.

Tabak had also Googled bin collection days in his local area on the days after her death, as well as how long it would take for a body to decompose.

He plead guilty to her murder, but insisted it was not pre-meditated and he had used “minimum force” and was “in a state of panic.”

While information about the pornography was not shared with jurors at the time, he was found guilty of Yeates murder and Mr Justice Field referred to a "sexual element" to the killing.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 20 years. He is currently housed at HM Prison, Wakefield.

Why was Christopher Jefferies arrested?

Mr Jefferies was arrested by police and vilified by much of the media, to the extent that he successfully sued many publications for libel.

On 5 January 2011, journalist Roy Greenslade wrote in the Evening Standard how Jefferies has been subject a number of negative articles, he described the coverage as "character assassination on a large scale".

He cited several examples of headlines and stories that had been published, including a headline in The Sun describing Jefferies – a former schoolmaster at Clifton College – as weird, posh, lewd and creepy; a story from the Daily Express quoting unnamed former pupils referring to him as "... a sort of Nutty Professor" who made them feel "creeped out" by his "strange" behaviour; and an article from the Daily Telegraph, which reported Jefferies "has been described by pupils at Clifton College ... as a fan of dark and violent avant-garde films".

Jefferies launched and successfully sued The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Star, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Daily Record for an undisclosed sum.

During his trial, Stephen Moss wrote in The Guardian: "The unspoken assumption was that no one could look that odd and be innocent."

The retired English teacher has since spoken of how his life was irreversibly changed due to the media’s characterisation of him.

Speaking in the BBC Magazine in 2014, Mr Jefferies said in the immediate aftermath he was forced to live a “fugitive” lifestyle, adding “I was unable for a time to go out, except occasionally after dark, because the press were desperate for the scoop of discovering where I was.”

When is ‘Body in the Snow’ on Channel 5?

Channel 5’s two-part documentary will air on Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th September at 9pm.

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