Jeremy Bamber


This is a story about a telephone call, a silencer, an ex-girlfriend, and a schizophrenic. 

It’s a story about a mass murder and the massive uncertainties surrounding it. A story that has two potential culprits but no entirely satisfying explanation for either party – being innocent or guilty.

One of the suspects, Sheila Caffell, is dead. The other, Jeremy Bamber, is serving five life sentences for something he says he didn’t do.

Bamber was found guilty on October 28 1986 of killing his adoptive father and mother, his step-sister, and her twin sons. The jury that convicted him had been divided, and after nine and a half hours of deliberation still could not reach a unanimous verdict. The judge eventually settled for a majority verdict of 10-2. 

So it is not surprising that every scenario that can be thrown up by the crime remains clouded by inconclusive or questionable evidence. As so often occurs when this happens, the case felt as if it was tried as much outside the court as in and that when tried by the press and public, Jeremy Bamber was found guilty.

Some of the events at the heart of the case are, sadly, indisputable.

In the early hours of Wednesday, August 7th 1985, Nevill and June Bamber, their adopted daughter Sheila “Bambi” Caffell, and her two young children, Daniel and Nicholas, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds at their home in Essex, White House Farm. In the mire of possibilities surrounding the events of that night, one thing at least is certain: the person responsible for the killings was either Jeremy Bamber or his step-sister Sheila Caffell.

Jeremy Bamber had alerted the police by telephone at about 3.30am, telling them that his father had just phoned him saying: “Please come over… Your sister has gone crazy and has got a gun.”

With this call Bamber ensured the case came even closer inside the realm, the world, of the family than it already was. In fact he instantly enclosed it within its orbit for good, instantly excluding any chance that the perpetrator was someone from outside the family’s world. Any of the usual suspects and theories, such as a jealous ex-lover or a burglary gone wrong, could immediately be discounted.

Bamber did more than this. Inadvertently or otherwise, with this call, he fixed the possibility that he himself was responsible for the killings at 50%. If he was telling the truth of course it meant Caffell had “gone crazy” and shot the family before turning the gun on herself. But if he was lying about any detail of the phone call it could only mean he himself had been responsible for the slaughter. That the story had been a mere fabrication to implicate Sheila: a high-risk strategy because it not only excluded any other suspects but heavily incriminated himself.

The bodies were found at the Bambers’ farm in Tolleshunt D’Arcy Essex,  seven miles from Jeremy Bamber’s house. The five victims had been shot a total of 25 times with a .22 Anschutz semi-automatic rifle, mostly at extremely close range.

Sheila’s six-year-old twins were found in their beds, having probably been shot first, in their sleep.

Daniel had been shot five times through the back of the head and Nicholas three times in the face.

Nevill and June Bamber were also shot in bed but were not killed instantly. June had crawled across the bedroom floor where her body was found with a total of seven shotgun wounds.

Despite having been shot twice, Nevill Bamber made it from the bedroom to the kitchen where a violent struggle appeared to have taken place and he was found dead – slumped on a stool having received a further six shots to the head and neck. The kitchen phone was off the hook, connected to an unknown line. Finally, Sheila Caffell was found dead beside her parents’ bed with two gunshot wounds to her chin and throat. Her right hand was lying across the butt of a .22 rifle, which was lying across her chest, pointed upwards towards her head.

The first reaction in the press expressed no doubt.

“Drugs probe after massacre by mother of twins,” said that Thursday’s Daily Mail.

Sheila was a schizophrenic. Her illness and her wounds, together with Bamber’s phone call, led police to treat the case as if she must have committed the murders and then committed suicide.

The police were so certain about the case at this stage that shortly afterwards many items from the scene of the crime including blood-stained bedding and carpets were destroyed.

But the 50% chance of Jeremy Bamber being the killer remained – in theory and in practice when it emerged that there were two sets of fingerprints on the gun: Sheila’s and his.

Police suspicions began to change and fifty-three days after the bodies were found Jeremy Bamber was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty, but a year later was convicted of all five killings.

Sentencing him to life imprisonment, Mr Justice Drake described him as having “a warped, callous, and evil mind” and condemned his conduct as “evil beyond belief.” 

But huge uncertainties about the series of events on the night of the murders, and the three days following it, remained. 

Bamber has always protested his innocence and in September this year he made a second application for his case to be referred back to the Court of Appeal – an application that supporters lobbying for his release expect him to win.

The campaign for both has been mounted by civil liberties group, Justice For All, and backed by barristers Isabelle Gillard and David Martin Sperry and lawyer Ewan Smith who worked on similar appeals in cases involving the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad. 

They claim to have new evidence that raises serious doubts about the validity of Bamber’s conviction, specifically focusing on: a) questionable forensic evidence, b) the judge’s guidance to the jury, c) police incompetence, and d) possible fabrication of evidence.

Such are the circumstances of this case that neither Jeremy Bamber’s guilt nor his innocence has ever been at all certain. Nevertheless, the announcement that Bamber’s solicitors had asked the Home Secretary to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal was greeted with a degree of disbelief from the press and public. 

After all, Jeremy Bamber was one of the most reviled criminals of the 1980s. The murders that he’d been found guilty of were not just bloody but (if he had committed them) premeditated and callous. And it wasn’t as if his motives weren’t obvious.

The prosecution argued, not unpersuasively, that Bamber acutely and actively disliked his adoptive family. And it was not disputed that he stood to inherit an estate of 300 acres and over £430,000 from his parents’ wills. 

He had already admitted to stealing £980 in cash from the family’s caravan site five months before the murders offering the court a characteristically, ill-advisedly, blunt explanation for the theft/his actions – namely, “greed.”

But it was  hearing about/seeing Bamber’s conduct before and after the killings that really turned the tide of opinion against him.

In court and consequently in the press, Bamber was portrayed as appallingly arrogant and pompous. 

In one early exchange with the prosecution, when the QC accused him of not telling the truth Bamber simply replied loftily: “That is what you have got to establish.” 

It emerged in court that Bamber often complained to the family about not being made a company director, and evidently aspired to a more glamorous lifestyle than the £170-a-week farm job the family had provided instead afforded him. 

He was portrayed as someone who longed for The Good Life. Much was made of his sun-bed and his plan to buy a flashy kit car. It emerged he’d celebrated stealing the £980 by drinking pink champagne, thereby branding himself as something the public despised: a thief with bad taste.

It was said Bamber detested his parents. He and Sheila (who was not related to Bamber by blood) were babies when they were adopted by Nevill and June who raised them together, only to send Bamber (and Bamber alone) to boarding school. It was alleged that he disliked Sheila and resented her for her success in London as a model and the special allowances made for her illness.

Bamber was photographed crying at the family’s funeral, but relatives reported that in the days immediately following the discovery of the bodies he had shown little distress and seemed interested only in his parents’ financial assets.

During the 53 days between the massacre and being charged, Bamber was said to have spent money with almost indecent excess, or at least ease, and generally enjoyed himself far too much. He even travelled to Amsterdam. Then, immediately after the funeral, he went on holiday to the South of France. Hardly the typical signs of a man suffering from grief, let alone the violent murder of his parents, his sister, and his six year-old nephews.

“He wanted to sell everything,” said his ex-girlfriend, not merely a theory she’d come up with or referring to a desire Bamber might have had but a plan he had already begun to put into action.

He had used Sotheby’s to sell a clock, three paintings, and some of the silver that had been bequeathed to him (literally selling the family silver). Although this again may have looked indecently greedy he was perfectly within his rights, saying later he had done so to pay the death duties required without having to break up the farm by selling some of it off.

The tabloids crucified Bamber, particularly over the story that he’d approached them with soft-porn pictures of Sheila (or ‘Bambi’ as she became known) from her modelling days, for which he wanted £100,000. 

In court, the police doctor testified how, when Bamber was informed about the deaths, he’d broken down and cried, and then vomited.

Some officers on the other hand described him as “unusually cool” and “very calm”, stating that shortly after the news Bamber said he was “starving” and had made himself breakfast. Again, not exactly a crime but something that seemed to count against him.

Other than this emotive testimony though, the evidence was not simply far from overwhelming but slim. True, Bamber’s fingerprints were found on the murder weapon but that was hardly surprising with a shotgun belonging to a family/farm such as this. And besides Sheila Caffell’s were too.

So, incidentally, were the prints of the police officer who had picked up the gun (obviously without putting gloves on, as procedure requires – to avoid any contamination of the evidence). 

Bamber had explained how his fingerprints came to be on the murder weapon, telling police that the day before the murders, he’d taken it out to shoot rabbits.

Apart from this the prosecution provided no other forensic evidence against Bamber from the scene, from his clothes or his person. No hairs, no blood or bruising, no incriminating fibres, and no gunshot residues.

Ordinarily, this should have counted firmly in the accused’s favour – and perhaps would have if the investigation had been carried out correctly.

Ironically, it seemed the inadequate, or inept, conduct of the police effectively nullified Bamber’s apparent innocence and only created more doubt (that he was guilty).

Extraordinarily, the police had destroyed the bedding and carpets from the bedrooms at Bamber’s request after he said they were too upsetting. They also left other examinations of the crime scene too late to be meaningful. 

After an inquiry in March 1989 by the Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary, the then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd endorsed 18 recommendations to all police forces for future investigations.  The Police Complaints Authority also conducted a 19-month inquiry but decided to take no action against any of the officers involved despite 26 specific complaints by Bamber, including 13 allegations of tampering with evidence and perjury.

After the trial, Essex’s Deputy Chief Constable, Ronald Stone, claimed: “We were duped by a very clever young man.” However, the prosecution’s case had rested on three pieces of bizarre circumstantial evidence, all of which had been needlessly provided by the “very clever young man” himself.

According to the prosecution, the phone call that Bamber claimed to have received from his father had been intended to establish Bamber’s whereabouts at the time of the crime – placing him away from the scene and also incriminating Sheila. Yet if it was intended as an alibi, the phone call – besides narrowing the culprits down to either himself or Sheila – actually left Bamber open to several difficult questions.

For example, if Sheila had indeed gone berserk with a gun, wounding Nevill and June Bamber in bed, why had Nevill Bamber left his wife alone, at Sheila Caffell’s mercy, to go to the kitchen and telephone Jeremy? 

And why, having made it downstairs to the phone, would he call Jeremy instead of dialling 999? It was suggested that Nevill Bamber would not have wanted to involve the police in a family ‘dispute’ or ‘drama’ – if you can see the shooting that way. This scenario seems even more unlikely if it suggests Jeremy was the person Nevill would foresee pacifying Sheila.

Furthermore, Jeremy Bamber told the police that his father’s call had ended abruptly (“the line went dead”) and that when he phoned his father back “it was engaged each time.” 

If the telephone was engaged, as Bamber said, who had his father phoned?

More pertinently, would it technically have been possible for Jeremy Bamber to dial out and call the police if his phone was still connected to his father’s line?

After all, according to a police statement, the British Telecom telephonist on duty said that when she was asked by the police to check the line she could “tell that the receiver was off the hook… I could hear a dog barking.”

Shortly before police entered the house, the telephonist was asked to check again. “The line was still open. The only thing I could hear was a very slight moving sound.” 

In order for this statement to be true, Nevill Bamber must have abruptly ended his call to his son, and called someone else, who never came forward. 

If he simply dropped the receiver while talking to his son, Bamber would not have been able to get a line and phone the police.

But simply because Bamber could not explain his father’s actions, it didn’t necessarily follow that he had not received that call. You may think Bamber’s story unlikely or suspicious, but the fact is the prosecution could not prove that he hadn’t.

The most vital piece of evidence against Bamber though was a silencer found in the  farmhouse several days after the murders. It was discovered in the gun cupboard on August 10th by June Bamber’s niece, Christine Ann Eaton, and her brother, David Boutflour – who had gone to the farm to secure and remove the remaining firearms. (Something else you’d assume the police might have done after such a massacre.)

David and Christine were “looking for clues”, they admitted, but emphasised: “it was quite a surprise for us to find such particular essential pieces of gun lying in the cupboard.”

Various members of the family saw it, and in their statements reported seeing a grey hair, traces of red paint, a large scratch, and a dot of blood the size of a match-head.

According to Bamber’s campaigners, of the 30 or 40 police officers who had searched the farmhouse, at least three had searched the gun cupboard, even removing items (such as ammunition), from the very box that contained the silencer. Yet none of them came across it. The relatives took the silencer to Ann Eaton’s house, but it was not collected by the police until the evening of August 12th, five days after the killings. 

It was examined on August 13th at the Home Office’s forensic science laboratory at Huntingdon, and returned to Essex police the same day.

Thirty-six days after the killings, forensic scientist John Hayward examined the inside of the silencer and found blood that, he concluded, was of the same type as Sheila Caffell’s – an example of what is known as “backspatter.” 

If the blood in the silencer was Sheila Caffell’s, she plainly had not committed suicide. 

Firstly, with the silencer attached, the gun would have become too long for her to have shot herself in the chin. Secondly, after using it, she could not of course have returned it to the gun cupboard.

According to the prosecution, logic dictated that if Sheila Caffell could not have committed suicide, then she was murdered. If she was murdered, then Jeremy Bamber’s story about the phone call was a lie. And if Jeremy Bamber was lying about the phone call, then it could only have been for one reason. He himself had committed the murders.

Much like the police with the gun, the Boutflours and the Eatons had omitted to wear gloves when handling the silencer, even though they had realised its importance. And they had kept it at their house from Saturday until Monday evening before it was collected by the police for examination.

At the trial the family’s version of events surrounding the silencer did not entirely tally, perhaps not surprisingly as a year had passed since its discovery. 

Some of them asserted that they had seen a grey hair (similar to Nevill Bamber’s) on the silencer.

This was something the Judge brought up later, erroneously – telling the jury Hayward “was then asked about the grey hair that had been seen”, even though this grey hair had never been produced in court, having, apparently, been lost by the police in transit.

When David Boutflour was asked if the silencer was in the same box as “an ABU carrier bag”, he could only reply: “I do not recall. It may well have been in the second box.”

Ann Eaton meanwhile could not remember who had contacted the police, saying vaguely “probably me”, or who had moved it. 

“I could have taken it upstairs, or my husband…” 

Then again, as she pointed out not unreasonably: “I never knew we were going to be put through all this.”

In the end, it was a remarkable coincidence that the family’s discovery proved so important. And that Bamber, the adoptive son, was thus prevented from claiming the family inheritance.

Apart from the traces of blood, there was nothing to indicate that the silencer had been used. 

Malcolm Fletcher, a firearms expert for the prosecution, said: “I have been unable to establish whether any of these bullets or bullet fragments have been fired through a sound moderator (silencer).”

He admitted under cross-examination that a .22 calibre gun was “the least likely” weapon to produce “backspatter” and that a silencer made it less likely still.

The jury were clearly troubled by the silencer, and even sent out a question to the judge during their deliberations, asking: “What was the chance of the blood group being Mr and Mrs Bamber’s?”

Smears of blood were found all over the rifle, particularly on the broken butt used to beat Nevill Bamber, but forensic scientists were not able to identify any of it, not even to group it. Yet the prosecution forensic expert, John Hayward, was able to state that blood found inside the silencer was group A,1 and concluded that it was Sheila Caffell’s.

Bamber’s campaign says that Hayward now accepts that the blood could be a mixture of Nevill Bamber’s (O,1) and/or June Bamber’s blood (A,2-1). 

In his statement of October 13, Hayward also noted that the blood group of prosecution witness Robert Boutflour, who was at the farmhouse when his son David found the silencer, was identical to Sheila Caffell’s.

Forensics and ballistics experts, including a senior lecturer at London Medical College, support the campaign’s view that “the possibility remains that there was blood from more than one source inside the silencer” and that “the way the blood tests were carried out could have resulted in an error in interpretation.”

At the trial, the Judge emphasised to the jury how, from experience, Hayward could judge the possibility of a mixture by appearance. 

Hayward himself had in fact said the opposite and under cross-examination admitted in all his experience he had never seen “backsplatter” before. 

The campaign says he now admits the Judge “did not direct the jury accurately regarding his evidence.” 

In his summing up, Mr Justice Drake said: “The sound moderator is clearly of very great importance and the evidence relating to the sound moderator could, on its own, lead you to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty.”

He also floated two possibilities about the sequence of deaths that not even the prosecution had sought to prove: that June Bamber had been shot first, and also that Sheila Caffell had died before June Bamber. June Bamber’s blood trails (which were under the body of Sheila Caffell) showed this was the one thing that had nothappened.

Freddie Mead, an expert in forensic ballistics and a specialist in the investigation of accidents involving firearms for the army, told me: “The speculation in the Learned Judge’s summing up is totally wrong.” 

Mead’s conclusion is that “there aren’t any grounds to believe a silencer was involved, apart from that the silencer was found.”

According to the police and the prosecution, Jeremy Bamber’s carefully devised plan to murder his family and to fake Sheila Caffell’s suicide was undone largely by one minor detail: he had told his girlfriend about it.

But after he had supposedly murdered them, he then dumped her. Not surely consistent with any masterplan as was shown when, 31 days after the murders, she went to the police.

According to Julie Mugford, Bamber had been talking about “the perfect murder” the previous summer. He had talked of sedating his parents and burning the farm down but had then learnt that the insurance on the house and some of the antiques (including, interestingly, the clock) wasn’t high enough. 

She claimed Bamber had been “killing rats with his bare hands” to steel himself for the attack. Bamber denied this.

She also said he had bragged about hiring a mercenary to kill them for £2,000. In court, she testified that, hours before the murder, Jeremy Bamber had called her and said: “It’s tonight or never.” 

She claimed she told him not to be a fool, and he hung up. She did not phone the Bambers to warn them. 

Later that night (around the same time he called the police), Bamber called her again.

“He said: ‘Everything is going well. Don’t worry, something is wrong at the farm. I love you lots.’” 

When Mugford arrived at the scene, she said that she and Bamber “went into the dining room for a cuddle and he said to me: ‘I should have been an actor’, and just laughed.”

Mugford claimed that hours after the bodies were discovered, with the house still full of police, Bamber had told her a man called Matthew had carried out the killings, and that Matthew had instructed Sheila Caffell to shoot herself.

The jury (presumably) believed her, but didn’t believe Bamber’s story about the hitman. 

(In court a Mr Matthew MacDonald denied that he was a hitman, or that he had been offered £2,000, saying that he was “a plumber.” 

Either way, no charges were ever brought against him and police did not pursue this line of inquiry. 

And yet a month after the murders, Julie Mugford had still done nothing. She escorted Bamber to, and comforted him through, the family funeral.

“I was scared to believe it,” she testified. “He said that if I said anything that I could be implicated in the crime as well because I knew about it.”

Although some of her testimony was detailed enough to be convincing, it was mostly uncorroborated – virtually hearsay. Julie Mugford was openly besotted with Bamber, and only went to the police after she discovered he had cheated on her and finished their relationship. 

Bamber said in evidence that he attributed her testimony to jealousy, bitterness, and believing what the tabloids had been writing about him. 

He said: “There are two people I think who are lying; Julie – she is the main one who is making up stories – and Robert Boutflour (Bamber’s uncle and a witness for the prosecution), who could not have been mistaken.”

Most of the crucial questions at the heart of this case revolve, not around Jeremy Bamber, but around one of the victims, Sheila Caffell. 

Several people who knew Sheila testified that she did not have the necessary expertise to have fired 23 shots, killing four people, without any “wasted” bullets.

June Bamber’s niece, Ann Eaton, said that as soon as she heard the weapon had been reloaded, she realised Sheila could not possibly have done it. 

“She would not know one end of the barrel of a gun to another.” 

Peter Eaton told the police: “Sheila, I would have said, was definitely frightened of guns. I had never seen Sheila hold a gun or fire one.”

David Boutflour said: “I do not think I can recall seeing her with a gun.” 

He added, “though I have seen a photograph of her holding a gun…”

However, nothing from Sheila Caffell’s actual person supported the possibility that she had perpetrated this violent and bloody massacre. 

Her nightdress revealed no traces of cartridge oil or blood from the other victims, and it had no pockets, posing doubts about how she would have reloaded. (A box of cartridges for a .22 was found on the kitchen sideboard and Sheila could, arguably, have carried the box around with her). 

What’s more, Sheila’s fingernails were described as “long and painted with red varnish”, and not at all damaged by having (inexpertly) fired and re-loaded a .22 rifle.

As “a mere slip of a girl”, doubts were also expressed that she could not possibly have been involved in the fight with Nevill Bamber – a fight in which stools were upturned, crockery broken, and he received lacerations and bruising to his nose, forehead, cheekbones, temples, wrists, forearms, and chest, having been battered with the butt of a rifle. And yet Sheila showed no sign of a struggle at all.

The judge felt compelled to remark that these things pointed to it “being very, very unlikely indeed that she fought and overcame that tough farmer…” 

In fact, the palms of Sheila’s hands and the soles of her feet were clean: no blood, no sugar (spilt during the fight with Nevill Bamber), no incriminating substances of any kind. 

Added to this, Sheila’s psychiatrist, Dr Hugh Ferguson, stated that he “did not see Sheila as a violent person, and certainly not as a patient who would have committed suicide.”

From the tracks of the bullets, and the entry wounds, a post-mortem concluded that Sheila was shot at point-blank range “from right under the throat, pointing up.” The tracks of the wounds had gone “upwards and backwards” through the chin and throat and the blood had run “down her face in a vertical direction”, suggesting that she was seated when she was shot. But could she have shot herself twice?

Although the post-mortem said the first wound would have caused “substantial” haemorrhaging, it also reported that Sheila could have been “stunned” and “not necessarily rapidly lose consciousness”, thus making the second shot, which was fatal “virtually instantaneously”, quite feasible.

However, the possibility remained that this was exactly what Jeremy Bamber had intended, and that he had murdered Sheila Caffell and made it look like suicide. 

The question is how? How did Bamber get close enough to shoot her, and to shoot her from that angle, with Sheila showing no signs of struggle or resistance?

Certainly the coroner, influenced by the police at the scene, believed that Sheila Caffell had committed suicide. Exactly a week after the killings, at the inquest, the coroner gave permission for the family to bury her body, and returned it to the authority of Jeremy Bamber. Bamber then had it cremated.

David Boutflour had said in court that when police suggested Sheila had been the culprit, he told them: “Let’s see the forensics.” 

He said: “I wanted them to show me her fingerprints on the cartridges.” 

He could have made the same demands in Bamber’s case. No blood or dust or incriminating fibres were ever found. Bamber’s clothing was not taken for forensic tests until after he came back from holiday, nor was he examined for bruising or cartridge residue until a month after the event. 

As for the question of how Jeremy Bamber had managed to murder Sheila Caffell and fake her suicide, be it by lying on the floor below her, drugging her or threatening her, the prosecution never offered any explanation. 

It is true that traces of the tranquiliser drug, Halo-peridol (used to treat schizophrenia) were found in Sheila’s blood, and Sheila’s psychiatrist, Hugh Ferguson, told the court that if Sheila had been over-sedated “it is quite possible she would have slept quite soundly and deeply.” 

In fact, her own doctor, Dr Angeloglou, had requested her dosage be reduced for this reason.

A statement by one of Bamber’s relatives suggested that Bamber knew Sheila was on medication and that Bamber told him (correctly) that even if Sheila had taken the drugs a considerable time ago, they would still be detected. But then Sheila had been on medication for years.

Just as Julie Mugford told the court that Jeremy Bamber had threatened to kill his family, so, according to other witnesses, had Sheila Caffell. 

When she got divorced from her husband, Colin Caffell, the twins had been put into his custody because of her mental instability. Her cousin testified that Sheila had asked her whether she ever had thoughts of killing herself; and that she had contemplated suicide on more than one occasion. It was said she had “expressed morbid thoughts about killing herself or the boys.”

Sheila’s doctor, Hugh Ferguson, from St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton, told the court that Sheila had “bizarre delusions about possession by the devil.” 

She had told him she hated her mother and, in the past, she had seen herself as both Joan of Arc and the Virgin Mary. Sheila had been discharged as recently as March 29, 1985 (four months before the murders), and Dr Ferguson wrote he “was not happy about her leaving so soon.”

We get a glimpse of the extent of Sheila’s illness from a recent letter she had written to Ann Eaton. 

“The reason I’m here… I asked God into my life so that I can understand mum’s moods more and became completely high on his love, so much so that I wanted to join CND, thinking I had a calling from God to sort the world’s problems out myself. Then I got a thing about the CIA following me. I finally thought a friend saw the devil, so I went through a tough time of unreality… I’m missing the boys. Love Sheila.”

According to Jeremy and June Bamber’s sister, on the night of the murders, Nevill and June Bamber had talked to Sheila about putting her children in foster homes. 

Bamber said Sheila had become upset. Ferguson had confirmed in court. 

“She had complex ideas about having sex with her twin sons. She thought her sons would seduce her and saw evil in both of them. In particular, she thought Nicholas was a woman-hater and a potential murderer.”

Although her husband Colin Caffell said that “over the years I have known Sheila, she has never used or had any involvement with guns”, he also said that if she had used firearms, he would have been “concerned, bearing in mind her violent outbursts.” 

He justified this by saying “her outbursts have always been towards property rather than people – pots and pans etc. Apart from the odd occasion when she struck me in temper, she has, to my knowledge, never struck anyone.”

In his report for the defence, Major Mead points out: “The actual facts of the shooting make accuracy an irrelevancy…the distances were so close as to make the question of hitting academic.” 

He goes on to add: “A degree of familiarity would be needed.” But, as Jim Stephenson from Justice For All  maintains: “She’d been on farms, and around shoots, all her life – 27 years. She couldn’t have done that without knowing something about shotguns.”

The prosecution argued that the fight with Nevill Bamber pointed to someone other than Sheila, but the opposite could also be true. As Nevill Bamber was badly wounded from the shots he had received in bed (probably to the arm and lower jaw), it is quite possible that it was Sheila, not Jeremy, who had followed him downstairs and battered him with the butt of the rifle before shooting him a further six times.

As for an explanation as to why Sheila’s hands or feet bore no forensic evidence, Home Office pathologist and Professor of Forensic Pathology at the University of Wales, Professor Bernard Knight, testified that it was quite normal and common for suicide victims to wash themselves. 

Someone prone to religious delusions such as Sheila could well have done this. Suicide victims, said Professor Knight, performed all sorts of “mundane” and “ritualistic tasks”. Sheila could have put the silencer away in the gun cupboard before shooting herself. Knight also testified that “women almost never commit suicide by shooting”, especially in this manner (to the neck; the mouth being more common). 

At the same time he also expressed the opinion that “for a third party to do this seems rather extraordinary… I think it would be difficult for someone else to do this without her objecting.” 

As the post-mortem said: “One cannot say with any degree of certainty whether the injuries were produced by another party.”

And that uncertainty remains. The new evidence collected by Bamber’s campaigners does not resolve the crucial question: Who killed Bambi? 

If the blood in the silencer could indeed be Nevill or June Bamber’s, as expert witnesses now claim, it remains feasible that both Bamber and Caffell could have killed their family.

So although this evidence throws considerable doubt over the prosecution’s case, it does not establish Bamber’s innocence either. The appallingly unprofessional performance of the police – that initially appeared to help put Bamber in the clear and Sheila in the frame – has, ironically, now made his case so much harder (thanks to the absence of reliable forensics from the gun, silencer, or bed-sheets et cetera). 

If an unsafe conviction had left a killer at large, the Home Secretary Michael Howard would also surely look more carefully or urgently at Bamber’s grounds for appeal. Sheila Caffell’s death changes that here, even though legally it shouldn’t be a factor.

In any case the criteria for an appeal or for a verdict to be over-turned is of course ‘Reasonable Doubt.’ 

Years later, the doubts surrounding many aspects of the White House Farm murders remain – for supporters arguing for Bamber’s guilt or innocence alike.

What they, and we, consider ‘reasonable’ on the other hand is probably very different.