Thursday 23 November 2017

Joanna Yeates trial: Jury shows photos of her snow covered body

Joanna Yeates' next-door neighbour Vincent Tabak admits manslaughter but denies murder. Photo: PA
Vincent Tabak. Photo: PA

Tom Morgan

VINCENT Tabak wept in the dock today as a jury was shown harrowing images of Joanna Yeates's strangled body.

The 33-year-old covered his face with his hands as close-up pictures of her injuries were shown on big screens.

Tabak removed his glasses and wiped his eyes as pictures of her snow-covered corpse were shown.

Further images taken by police after her body was found on Christmas Day show her "in a foetal-type position".

Close-up shots of her face from post-mortem examinations showed her with blood-stained short blonde hair.

Her eyes were closed and one of her earring studs was in place. Red bruise marks were shown on her neck and chin.

Mr Justice Field had warned the jury at Bristol Crown Court to prepare for the images taken after the body was found by dog walker Daniel Birch.

Mr Birch and his wife, Rebecca, had been walking their chocolate Labrador Roxy shortly before 9am after opening their presents.

They discovered a "lump" at the side of Longwood Lane, Failand, Somerset, after parking their Mini One car nearby, the court heard.

In a police statement read out to the jury, Mr Birch said: "After walking for about 100 metres I saw a lump in the snow and what appeared to be a denim jeans pocket on the left-hand verge.

"I didn't think about it straightaway and continued walking.

"After about 10 paces, my mind was saying 'That's a body' to me."

Mr Birch handed Roxy's lead to his wife before turning round to inspect the body.

"I said to Rebecca 'That was a body'," Mr Birch said.

Miss Yeates was lying adjacent to the road with her knees pointing towards a quarry wall.

Her next-door neighbour Tabak admits manslaughter but denies murder.

As the pictures were shown to the jury, pathologist Russell Delaney told the jury of a host of injuries found around her face and neck.

Images were taken of her both before and after she was removed in a body bag to Flax Bourton mortuary, in North Somerset.

Post-mortem examination pictures showed her lying on her right side with her jeans still intact but her pink top pulled up over her head, exposing her navel and her grey bra.

Her right arm was bent around her head while her left was resting straight across her body.

A picture of her right foot with the sock removed was also shown.

She had been wearing a chunky white watch with a silver necklace and pendant.

Dr Delaney performed the first examination at 6pm on the day her body was found.

Purple bruising above Miss Yeates's right eye and a graze on her cheek were found by Dr Delaney, the court heard.

Injuries on her nose and lip were also suffered while Miss Yeates was still alive, he said.

Dr Delaney said: "Bruising only occurs when the heart is beating - so the injuries occurred during life."

Haemorrhages were noted by Dr Delaney on her eyelids and face.

"The particular haemorrhages in the skin, face and eyelids are signs there has been venous obstruction in the head and neck," Dr Delaney said.

Post-mortem examinations continued on Boxing Day.

There were apparent blood stains on her flower patterned pink top but no signs of injuries to her genitalia, Dr Delaney said.

A Dutch interpreter was brought into the dock to make sure the defendant understood medical terms.

Officers avoided putting a tent over her body amid fears that evidence could be compromised, the jury heard.

Miss Yeates suffered 43 injuries after being strangled by Tabak at her Clifton flat on December 17, Dr Delaney recorded.

Forensic officers used a broom handle to help recover her frozen body from a country lane on Christmas Day, the court heard.

Andrew Mott, a forensic officer who reached the scene after police arrived shortly after 9am, told how he tried to prevent Miss Yeates's body thawing out.

Tabak's QC, William Clegg, questioned why photographs were not taken of a broom being used to arrange straps underneath the body so her body could be taken away.

"I can't comment on why that was the case," Mr Mott said.

"The straps that we used are hooked around the broom so it would have to be the straps that come into contact with the body."

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