Thursday 22 March 2018

Joanna's killing was pure chance

Murdered: Joanna Yeates. Photo: Getty Images
Murdered: Joanna Yeates. Photo: Getty Images
Vincent Tabak. Photo: PA

Tom Morgan and Rod Minchin

VINCENT Tabak claims it was "pure chance" that he killed Joanna Yeates, a court heard today.

Tabak strangled her after he "completely misread the situation" when she invited him in to her flat for a drink, his counsel said.

William Clegg QC opened the defence case by saying it was tragic that Miss Yeates had not stayed out for another drink with colleagues before returning home.

Mr Clegg said "Joanna went limp" after Tabak put his hand to her throat after she protested when he made a pass at her.

"It was pure chance that they ever met," the barrister said.

Both Miss Yeates and Tabak were at "loose ends" on the night of her death.

"She was bored and lonely. It was the Saturday before Christmas and her partner was away."

Her boyfriend Greg Reardon held back tears as Mr Clegg outlined his client's case.

"Their meeting that night and what followed was unplanned and pure chance," Mr Clegg said.

Tabak was invited in after Miss Yeates smiled at him as he walked past her kitchen window while setting off for Asda, the court heard.

"She offered him a drink. He declined as he was driving later," Mr Clegg said.

"She said that her boyfriend was away and she was alone. He said that her girlfriend was away and he was alone.

"As the two of them talked... Vincent Tabak completely misread the situation that he had walked into."

He made a move towards her as if he was going to kiss her on the lips.

Mr Clegg said it was "frankly disgusting" that Tabak had tried to hide the body and "did everything he could to cover his tracks".

But the barrister said Tabak had panicked and "never meant to kill Joanna at all".

He told the jury: "She screamed, it was a loud piercing scream, he panicked, he put his hand over her mouth to stifle the scream and said to her 'stop screaming'."

Tabak then put one hand around her throat.

"Joanna went limp," Mr Clegg said.

Tabak took Miss Yeates's sock and the pizza she had bought that night before putting them in a "corporate dustbin" in the Clifton area of Bristol, the barrister said.

Mr Clegg said he would not try to justify Tabak's actions after her death, saying his client was "living a lie" by attending dinner parties and attempting to carry on his life as normal.

He told the jury: "We all know what he should have done. He should have phoned police - he never did.

"That is something that he must bear responsibility for."

Mr Clegg told the jury that Tabak would be giving evidence tomorrow.

Mr Clegg said it was not for the jury to judge Tabak's actions after strangling 25-year-old Miss Yeates.

He confirmed that Tabak had struggled to hide the body after taking it to Longwood Lane, Failand, on December 17.

The barrister added: "He tried to push it over the wall where the blood stains were found but it was too difficult. He failed."

Instead, he covered her corpse with leaves, Mr Clegg said.

The court heard earlier that Tabak researched the unsolved murders of Melanie Hall and Anni Dewani after the killing.

The 33-year-old defendant also looked up satellite imagery of the site where he dumped Miss Yeates's body.

He researched the Wikipedia page for murder and maximum sentence for manslaughter, web records from work and personal laptops showed.

Days after killing Miss Yeates at her Clifton flat on December 17, Tabak was watching a time-lapse video of a body decomposing, the court heard.

Mr Clegg told the jury at Bristol Crown Court, where Tabak denies murder: "It was pure chance that Vincent Tabak and Joanna Yeates ever met on December 17 last year.

"If Joanna Yeates had stayed for one more drink in the Ram pub, she'd be alive today.

"If Vincent Tabak had left half an hour earlier to go to Asda, as was his intention, he wouldn't be standing in the dock now.

"Tragically, Joanna didn't stay for a last drink and went home, arriving around 8.30pm.

"Joanna went into her flat. She took off her coat, she took off her green fleece that she was wearing under her coat and put it on a chair, she took off her boots and she went into the kitchen.

"When in the kitchen she switched on the oven, presumbly to pre-heat it before doing the baking she had been researching on the internet earlier and had spoken about to friends.

"She opened one of the two bottles of cider she had bought at Bargain Booze and maybe had a drink from it.

"She was bored and lonely."

Mr Clegg continued: "It was the Friday before Christmas and her partner was away.

"She told Rebecca from Swansea, who gave evidence the other day, that she was bored and explored the possibility of travelling to Swansea to see her. The weather ruled it out.

"She texted three other friends, all in an effort to have some company.

"So she said she was bored to Rebecca and she was looking for company, as those text messages so clearly tell us.

"It was the Friday before Christmas, lots of people were out, it was the end of term and she was home alone."

Mr Clegg said that Miss Yeates and Tabak were virtual strangers, despite living next door to each other.

"In the next flat adjoining hers, with the front door just around the corner, was Vincent Tabak, her neighbour," Mr Clegg told jurors.

"They had never really met before, other than a nod as they would pass in a passage outside their house, a sort of acknowledgement one might give to a neighbour that you recognised but had never really spoken to.

"Indeed, her cat had had more contact with her neighbours than she had.

"Vincent Tabak was also home alone and bored. His partner was away and he was, like she was, at a loose end.

"He decided to go to Asda, not because of any real burning need for anything but as much to fill in time as anything else.

"And their meeting, like that night, like what followed was unplanned and it was pure chance.

"Vincent left his flat and he was walking towards his car, intending to drive to Asda, when he passed Joanna's kitchen window.

"Her blind was up - it always was. It was broken, her boyfriend confirmed.

"The light in the kitchen was on. Joanna was in there. She looked up and saw Vincent, her neighbour. He noticed her.

"There was a nod and acknowledgment between the two and she indicated or beckoned for him to retrace his steps and to come in.

"Joanna opened her front door and invited him in."

Mr Clegg told the jury that the invitation marked an "unfortunate starting point for the defence case".

"All the evidence confirms that he must have been invited in as there is no question of any forced entry," Mr Clegg said.

"He went into her flat because she had opened the door and invited him in.

"He took off his coat and hung it on the coat rack that was in her hall and she offered him a drink.

"He declined because he was driving later. "They then introduced themselves to each other and chatted, as neighbours would.

"She said that her boyfriend was away and she was alone and he said that his girlfriend was away and he was alone.

"And as the two of them talked inside that flat, Vincent Tabak completely mis-read the situation that he had walked into.

"Joanna was only being sociable, as many neighbours would be, particularly as it was Christmas.

"He mis-read her friendliness towards him and made a move towards her as if he was about to kiss her on the lips.

"He put one hand behind her back, in the middle of her back, to pull her closer to him.

"She screamed, it was a loud piercing scream. He panicked. He put her hand over her mouth to stifle the screams.

"He said to her 'Stop screaming'. He apologised and 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, nothing was premeditated, it was pure chance that he had passed by her kitchen window when she was preparing to start cooking."

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