Accused 'killed Yeates after misreading drinks invitation'
Published 20/10/2011 | 05:00
VINCENT TABAK killed Joanna Yeates in a panic after he misread the signals when she invited him in for a Christmas drink, a British court heard yesterday.
William Clegg, defending, said that Mr Tabak had never intended to kill the 25-year-old landscape architect.
The neighbours had met by chance, on the evening of December 17 last year, when the Dutch engineer left his flat to go to the supermarket, passing Ms Yeates's kitchen window as he went.
Feeling "bored" and "lonely", she had invited him into her flat and the pair, who had never properly met before, began chatting. As they faced one another, Mr Tabak (33), misread the situation and attempted to kiss Ms Yeates, causing her to let out a piercing scream.
Mr Clegg told Bristol Crown Court: "He panicked and put a hand over her mouth to stifle the scream. He apologised, said he was sorry.
"He took his hand away and she carried on screaming. He panicked, he put one hand around her throat and the other over her mouth, in seconds, far less than a minute, Joanna went limp. She was dead.
"He never intended to kill her. Nothing had been planned."
It is the first time since his arrest in January that Mr Tabak's version of events has been made public. Mr Clegg said that, while Mr Tabak's behaviour after he killed Ms Yeates was "disgusting", the jury's job was only to determine whether he had intended to kill her.
Setting out his client's case, he said: "It was pure chance that Vincent Tabak and Joanna Yeates ever met on December 17 last year.
"She was bored and lonely. It was the Friday before Christmas and her boyfriend was away."
Mr Clegg went on: "In the next flat adjoining her ... was Vincent Tabak, her neighbour. His partner was away and he was, like she was, at a loose end."
Jurors were then told that Mr Tabak had been walking past Ms Yeates's flat on his way to the supermarket when she spotted him from her kitchen.
Mr Clegg said: "There was a nod and acknowledgement between the two. Joanna opened her front door and invited him in...
"But he misread her being friendly towards him and made to move towards her as if he was about to kiss her on the lips."
When she screamed he had "panicked" Mr Clegg explained, adding: "The act itself that led to her death when he put his hand around her throat was very short indeed, far less than a minute."
After killing Ms Yeates, he placed her body in a bicycle cover and put it in the boot of his car before driving to an Asda supermarket. He then drove to a remote country lane where he dumped her body and covered it in leaves.
Mr Clegg told the jury that he would make no excuses for Mr Tabak's behaviour after he killed Ms Yeates.
But he added: "He is not being tried for what he did after Joanna was killed."
Mr Tabak, who admits manslaughter but denies murder, is expected to give evidence when the trial resumes today.