Tuesday 16 January 2018

Landlord arrested on suspicion of murder

Caroline Gammell

Joanna Yeates's landlord Christopher Jefferies has been arrested on suspicion of murdering the landscape architect.

Detectives arrested the 65 year-old at his home at 7am in Bristol, England.

The arrest comes after Mr Jefferies, who taught English at nearby public school Clifton College, appeared to make contradictory comments on Wednesday about whether he had seen Miss Yeates leaving her flat with two people on the night she disappeared.

This morning they were seen removing his car - a silver Chrysler Neon - for forensic examination. Forensic officers in white overalls were seen going in and out of the flats.

Mr Jefferies lived in the same block of flats where Miss Yeates lived with her boyfriend Greg Reardon.

Mr Jefferies told neighbours that he thought saw Miss Yeates leaving her home with two other people on the night she disappeared.

Miss Yeates, 25, went missing on December 17 after meeting friends for a drink in a pub and her frozen body was found in a country lane on Christmas Day.

She had been strangled and was dumped in Failand, North Somerset, three miles from her home, several days before she was found.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokeswoman said: “Just after 7am this morning police attended an address in Canynge Road and arrested a 65-year-old man on suspicion of murder.

“Detectives are continuing to carry out forensic examinations.”

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones, who is leading the murder investigation, said his officers were following up several new leads following yesterday's appeal.

"There are a number of lines of inquiry we are following up. One of these concerns apparent reports that several people were seen or heard in or around Joanna's flat on the night of her disappearance," he said.

"As I stated yesterday, we know that there were a number of people in the Canynge Road area on the night of Joanna's disappearance.

"We want to hear from any of these people or anyone else with information that can help the inquiry."

Mr Jefferies, who was described by one neighbour as "a little bit eccentric", claimed what he had told police had been "distorted", but refused to elaborate. He told several neighbours of the possible sighting.

Mr Jefferies - originally from Grimsby - was highly regarded at Clifton College's English department in the 1970s. He retired in 2001. He was reported to admire the work of the 19th-century romantic poet Christina Rossetti.

A former pupil, James Harris, wrote on a social networking site: "Jo Yeates's landlord was my English teacher at school 20 years ago. He was very flamboyant and had blue hair at the time."

Mr Jefferies was four years ago appointed the chairman of the Bath and Avon Prayer Book Society, which promotes the continued use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. He resigned four months later.

In 2005 he set up a campaign group to fight plans to replace a rifle range and squash courts belonging to his former college with two semidetached houses.

Resident Tony Buss, 51, who lives in the same block of flats as Mr Jefferies , said: "Today's news is a shock and surprise."

He said the community had been worried about a killer on the loose.

Another neighbour, a 26-year-old man who did not want to be named, said: "It's all been pretty scary, especially for my girlfriend as I'm away most of the week so it's been pretty scary for her to be home alone.

"We chose the area of Clifton to live in because we thought it was safe."

Referring to Mr Jefferies, he said: "We see him all the time on the road. He's a bit of a nutty professor-type by the looks of it."

Mark Moore, head of Clifton College, where Mr Jefferies used teach, came to Canynge Road to speak to police.

Mr Moore was advised by an officer on duty outside the flats to ring police.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr Moore said: "I will be very happy to speak to you later in the day when I have established exactly what we know and we don't know."

Asked of his reaction to Mr Jefferies' arrest, he replied: "I need to find out more detail, fact and so forth, and I will speak to you later on."

In the latest CCTV footage, Miss Yeates was seen striding into Bargain Booze wearing jeans, black boots and the white waterproof jacket that was found in her flat after she disappeared.

She appeared relaxed and smiled at the cashier as she dug around in her bag to find her purse and paid for two bottles of cider. Both were found at her home, one partially drunk and the other untouched.

The off licence is only a few metres from the Tesco Express where she bought a Finest mozzarella, tomato and basil pizza. Although detectives found the receipt from Tesco, the pizza was never recovered. Yesterday, police carried out a second sweep of her home to ensure no clues had been missed.

Tributes continue to be left on Facebook, including from colleagues at BDP, the firm where both Miss Yeates and Mr Reardon worked.


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