On the sad case of Jo Yeates

We fairly obviously know very little about this case.  The most obvious pointer is the media coverage.  The same “facts” are repeated over and over in more than a week of coverage.  There has been an arrest and release on bail.  This doesn’t suggest police have ‘killing evidence’.  One wonders to a considerable extent why the lives of those involved have been subject to so much media time.  Surely we could find different ways to publicise in order to bring anyone with valid evidence forward, and this only makes one wonder further why anyone with evidence would need to be so jolted.  One hopes police have evidence better than media speculation.  The Attorney General has worried in public that a fair trial might be compromised, but the reality here is that our courts and investigative procedures often compromise fair hearings themselves.  That the madness of such events as the ritual abuse and Nico Bento scandals could go on in our system points to the system needing to be much more subject to public scrutiny, than protected from it.

We know a young, pretty woman has been murdered and that this is dreadful.  That she was taken or lured from her own flat no doubt worries us more.  Sympathies immediately extend to her family and close friends.  Yet I feel something more worrying.  It’s as though the case is a kind of “best-seller”, a form of voyeurism.   We want to see the killer or killers caught for all kinds of good reasons, not least to see the family get what closure is available (which is limited).  Others include deterrence, which includes the need for an effective and fair CJS, rather than the pretence of one.

The sympathy towards family and those around the victim has to be tempered by suspicion in the investigatory mind.  We know many of these tragedies have perpetrators in this group, not an easy matter to deal with.  This suspicion must not be based in mere stereotyping or even statistical likelihood.  The investigatory case is not being put in front of us.  In the real case, there is currently insufficient evidence to charge anyone, though we have been told a lot about a formerly blue-rinsed public school teacher, including tittle-tattle I doubt we have any right to know before any trial.

One can see, qua detective, many ‘reasons’ to arrest Mr. Jefferies, none of which are in the press, to enable forensic examinations (one wonders whether these should be easier to arrange?) and get his story on record and subject it to questioning.  One would like this to be a matter of course in investigations into police misconduct to prevent collusions.  One hopes the arrest had nothing to do with the Wail’s ‘Professor Strange’ idiocy.  He may well be innocent, though if pending forensics may show otherwise, one wonders on that the best our system can do is release him on police bail.  Many, of course, are released into the very communities they can influence through intimidation as a matter of course.  Mr. Jefferies will not be able to interfere, at this stage with any evidence against him, if there is any.  This, sadly, in many other enquiries, is not the case.

I wish those working hard on this every success.  On the basis of our press reporting (vapid), I am less likely to believe Mr. Jefferies the culprit than I would have been after 10 minutes at the scene wondering who else had keys to the flat.  One hopes there is ‘killing evidence’ to emerge.  I suspect this will be an intricate matter of CCTV tracking (not at all easy), forensics (not easy either – CSI is mythical) and story-matching.  On TV behavioural cues I have seen nothing, other than that I quite liked what I saw of Mr. Jefferies (I like intelligent eccentrics).  If innocent, I hope he will forgive me for hoping I am wrong on behavioural cues and he is more than just an obvious line of enquiry. We mostly are wrong on behavioural cues. There are three people I’d have been over like a rash on the basis of press reporting if I was SIO on this one, just the beginning of diligent police work, whether they are innocent or not, or whether they are likeable or not.

We have no details on which to discuss the case itself, probably as it should be.  This may be because our media is profoundly hapless, now incapable of anything other than feeding on the embedded crumbs tossed their way.  I would like to see much more public scrutiny of our CJS, but how could we trust that to this lot?  The blue rinse should be of no interest to any future court and should have been of no interest to any of us either, unless someone with one was seen ‘running away’.

I think it is of interest to speculate on what statistical-circumstantial suspects should do in a major enquiry.  Without an alibi, I’d be tempted to hand over my car and house keys and invite exclusion from suspicion.  Qua detective, I know this would make me suspicious!  Maybe a bastard clever enough to have already covered tracks, rather than a helpful soul.  Not easy on any side.  One might even wonder here whether Mr. Jefferies’ arrest could have been avoided if we had different procedures on ‘reasonable suspicion’, with wider police search powers.



8 thoughts on “On the sad case of Jo Yeates

  1. It is a worrying situation we have arrived at today. Much of our legal system appears pre-empted and tainted by the constant media drivel we are expected to endure on a daily basis. The same media speculation and opinion crap that runs a distinct chance of influencing and/or spoiling any possible fair and just court hearing these days. My other worry is the public hounds baying for blood in every case, packs that have been whiped up into a frenzy by that media machine. What chance fair justice and innocent until proven guilty when we have this ethos in our society? Is it fair that victims and their loved ones should have to suffer from such disgusting and speculative diatribe?
    I have posted previously on the very same issues…
    “Killing the Media Crap” http://goo.gl/0uAQF
    “Media driven accountability witchhunts” http://goo.gl/RjUnk

  2. ” The same “facts” are repeated over and over in more than a week of coverage. There has been an arrest and release on bail. This doesn’t suggest police have ‘killing evidence’. One wonders to a considerable extent why the lives of those involved have been subject to so much media time. “

    As MrG points out,. because we now have 24 hour news channels and they have to show SOMETHING. And also, this story fits the bill – a young, white, respectable woman. Cases like Damilola Taylor are a comparative rarity. Most cases provoking media feeding frenzy are just like this one.

    It isn’t ‘racism’, though no doubt the ‘Guardian’ or ‘Indy’ would disagree – it’s simply that they are considered ‘the norm’ in the UK, and so get the lion’s share of the attention.

  3. “Without an alibi, I’d be tempted to hand over my car and house keys and invite exclusion from suspicion. Qua detective, I know this would make me suspicious! Maybe a bastard clever enough to have already covered tracks, rather than a helpful soul. “

    Are they not the province of imported TV dramas, though? Aren’t most murders pretty quickly solved because the culprit is usually far less than a cunning, calculated killer, and more a clumsy, lazy incompetent?

  4. Most solved crime is committed by chumps. I’m coming to the belief serious crime is beyond most of even our senior detectives. Most cops have little training and the odds favour even idiot criminals. The cops do stereotype a lot and they don’t relate well to clever people, maybe not meeting many.

  5. Some good points raised in there Archy`. Slightly off topic, but I was reminded of a cot death one of my lads called me to (routine attendance of his supervisory officer in such cases). The poor mum was holding up amazingly well as we traipsed through this most traumatic time of her life in our size 10’s, until it came to taking the infant to the mortuary (at the local hospital where her father happened to be a consultant). She didn’t want us to put her deceased, beautiful, baby in the waiting ambulance but wanted to carry him herself, with hubby in attendance, and not go in either an ambulance or police car. The D/S was on to me in a flash, by landline, and was insistant that the accepted procedure be followed, which meant ambo’s take baby to mortuary with mum who would then be taken to a suite and offered `all the bloody counselling she wants”. I could see the reaction at the `scene` and my support was 100% with Mum. My decision, negotiated with her, was that my officer drove them in the family car and she handed her baby over to `the system` in her own way but under our supervision. Boy did I have a struggle to break away from `policy` and copped a few odd looks from said D/S thereafter. We investigated the `suspicious death` just as effectively. As for Mr Jeffries, that he should be thoroughly investigated and questioned was inevitable, but obtaining forensic evidence was vital within the golden hour of the offence coming to light. I was surprised they took as long as they did to have him in. But perhaps there’s a newer, tighter definition of what constitutes `reasonable suspicion` these days?

    • “Boy did I have a struggle to break away from `policy`…”

      Whoever said ‘Rules are for the guidance of wise men, and the observance of fools’ was a wise man himself.

  6. I suspect we may suffer from today’s main career crusher Hog. I’ll whisper it quietly – compassion.

    Competence is another ‘c’ word. Hard to know whether stuff has been done right here, other than the press reporting being shallow, repetitive copy.

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