Barbara De'Ath

                                                Barbara's caravan at Osea Road in 1985 

Anyone who knows me, knows how upset I get about the way Jeremy has been portrayed in the media for the last 35 years.  So, I thought, I would try to give a picture of the real Jeremy as I saw him which is nothing like the one you see in the media. 

Firstly, it is VITAL to view the incident at White House Farm in the context of 1985, and not as we see things now in a totally different and more enlightened 2020. In addition, to recognise that the first conclusion of murder/ suicide was the correct conclusion. 

In 1985 military officers who had served during WW2 were in their 60s and a grateful nation adored them. The war then was still foremost in the very much middle class, older population of the villages of Goldhanger and Tolleshunt D’Arcy at that time. The swinging 60s had passed them by, and they did tend to be a bit judgemental. Nevill and June Bamber had both served in WW2, so had a special place in the heart of the local population. Nevill was particularly respected, and I think he was seen as a sort of Squire by the locals and from gossip at the time he took a sort of parental role.

We saw Nevill when we paid our site fees and bought our calor gas bottles. If he was in the office, and when he walked around the site, he would always say a few words of greeting. 

Nevill was an ex-RAF Officer and had been a pilot in the war. He was so very self- assured, calm, in charge without being overpowering. He didn't order people about but, nevertheless you wouldn't argue with him and by the same token, he wasn't intimidating either. He was like a father figure to all and you felt compelled to do your very best for him.

In about 1990 I took on the role of chair of The Civilian Committee of 4F Squadron ATC and spent a lot of time with serving and retired RAF officers at North Weald airfield as part of that role. The people who attended would have been from the same generation as Nevill, and those individuals informed my impression of the culture of RAF Officers.

June Bamber was lovely, she was very kind and so caring. I would say from the few times I saw her and the one and only time I had a conversation with her, that she was quite shy about meeting new people but went out of her way to help everyone. I understand that June would sell produce from the farm in the caravan site shop, but I wouldn’t know from personal experience 

Jeremy, contrary to what the press said, was extremely hard working. I am also sure, but I expect he himself will confirm or deny, was being trained by his father as a farm manager so that when Nevill retired Jeremy would take over. Nevill was an RAF training officer for young pilots in WWII, and so would probably had a management training programme worked out for Jeremy to take over the farm. At that time training would start from the bottom, up, so that when the time came for Jeremy to take over, he would have experienced all the jobs, and would know the best way to do them. Then when he was in total charge, he would be able to train others. 

Jeremy would often come onto the site on the tractor, his Sony Walkman playing from the speakers tied to various parts of the tractor. He would head to the parts of the site where the rubbish bins were, being hotly pursued by my son, then aged 9 years, on his bike in the hope that Jeremy would give him a ride on the tractor. 

Jamie was just as shy as Jeremy, so he wouldn’t have asked Jeremy and Jeremy wouldn’t have offered probably because, within a short time of him being there, all the teenage girls suddenly found it important to be at that particular part of the site at that time. But Jeremy wasn’t interested in them, from what I remember, but he was always polite, at a distance. 

On a few occasions we would see Jeremy with his dad, and it was very clear they had a wonderful relationship, they seemed to laugh a lot and there was clear respect between the both of them.

So, Jeremy was a very shy, hard working respectful young man who had a fairly strict upbringing in a law-abiding family. He would have been told that he would be taking over the estate and, as it would be likely he would be an employer of local people eventually, it wouldn’t be wise to mix with local people. That would have led the local people to believe him to be arrogant which of course he absolutely wasn’t. 

This bit is absolutely my own personal opinion of what happened next, and I say this as a mum of two men, one of which is not that much younger than Jeremy.

Having lost his whole family in one night, he must have been in total turmoil and looked to the other members of the family for support. Jeremy’s upbringing would have instilled in him to trust relatives and the British Justice system and therefore if he was innocent, he would have nothing to fear. 

This is how I see things and why I get so very upset. 

Jeremy was now in this situation totally alone; he was brought up with the stiff upper lip generation, fate had dumped him in this situation. He was now in sole charge of the farm which was a seven day a week job and could not be put on hold. He would have wanted to show everyone he was up to the job, so that they would be proud of the way he was coping. It wouldn’t occur to him that they were plotting against him and he would have trusted them. He hadn’t had the time to grieve; he was totally alone. The only people he had were his friends and they would, at that time, not have had the experience to give the advice he desperately needed. Like saying ‘dump your lawyer!’. I will always regret not going and knocking at the door and saying, ‘hi son how you doing?’ but at that time, I had assumed his family were taking care of him. I hope this shows the true Jeremy. 

Again, please remember don’t Judge everything from today, it was a very different world in 1985 in terms of attitudes and especially in small villages.  

My Memories from the Osea Road Caravan Park 

I became interested in the case in recent years because in 1983 my husband and myself bought a caravan down at the Osea Road site. Our family spent many weekends and holidays in Essex away from our home in the East End of London.  Having read as much as possible about Jeremy I feel there have been a few misconceptions around the case and about Jeremy and I’d like to put a few points forward.

As an outsider to this rural part of Essex, let me give you a social picture of the history of Maldon up to and during the 1980’s.

Maldon was an Anglo Saxon port and in 958 it contained the Royal Mint issuing coins for the late Anglo Saxon and early Norman Kings. This set the upper and middle class prestige in the area for generations to follow. In 1982 the population was and still is essentially middle class. One doesn’t walk down the high street and see an “Essex Girl,” an Essex girl would call the population snobs. In the 80’s there was little or no crime. Almost all the people were comfortably off and some of the families were distinctly wealthy.

The Speakman’s being one of the biggest landowners in the area were a wealthy family equal to Royalty in Maldon and Nevill Bamber being a retired RAF officer marrying June Speakman also gained the respect of the Maldon population. It was then that Nevill and June did the unthinkable and adopted outsiders Sheila and Jeremy. As the Bamber’s only employed local staff in their business, Jeremy was sent away to school because he would inherit the estate and as ‘the boss’ it would be difficult for him to give orders to employees who he was best friends with at school. 

Because of the status of the Bamber’s in the area the interest in the family was similar to our interest in the royal family and some of us like nothing better than some decent gossip about them, some like us don’t give a pigs burp about any of it, but in Maldon the Bamber’s were often the talk of the town.  This then was the state of play in the 1980’s in Maldon, very much a closed shop.

Our connection with Maldon began in 1983, my husband and I were invited to tea at a friend’s caravan situated on Osea Road site, it was a big joke because it had been difficult to find by car. We said things like ‘it would have been easier to have popped down the road to their house’ since we lived in the same road. Osea is a private site, which means not a ‘holiday camp’ type campsite. You bought your caravan and you had it for yourself. You could not rent it out to anyone other than your own family.  Each van had its own plot, a fenced off garden with room to put your car in. Dogs were allowed on your plot but had to be on the lead around the camp. Many families stayed for all the school holidays except Christmas of course. The camp opened on the last week in March or Easter and closed on the last day of October each year. During the closed season you could go down for the day but you were not allowed to stay, this was because year round rates would have to be paid, as it would then be considered a residential site.

On that day we were having tea, we walked along the sea wall and saw a caravan for sale. We bought the van and went down for weekends and holidays with our children. It was situated against the seawall opposite the spinney, a group of six trees. Every child was attracted to the spinney and we spent many days watching for accidents when a child would fall out of the tree, sorting out first aid and finding a mum or dad.

We would see Nevill walking around the site; if you were out in the garden he would say morning etc. Jeremy was a normal young man, he was NOT a womanizer, it was the other way round. When he was working on the site groups of girls would find something very important to do near where he was working. Jeremy would just continue working taking no notice of anyone. He was never rude, if anyone spoke to him he would answer. I would say he was shy. However what I believe to be normal behaviour for a boy of his age was considered dreadful behaviour by the chattering classes in Maldon.

The sea wall encircled the camp, the bit around was tarmacked so that people could walk or ride a bike along with ease. It was always busy during weekends and school holidays. Families would go to their vans and spend the entire holidays there. Fathers would either travel back and forth to work or stay from Friday night to Sunday night there. Children would be up late; barbeques were a group affair where several families would get together and party sometimes till the early hours. This is why I dismiss the police claim that Jeremy rode along the wall on an August night without being seen. It would be impossible to do because people would be on the seawall, night fishing, sitting talking etc. all night. Everyone knew Jeremy and he would have be noticed. 

After Jeremy was imprisoned the family who took over the site was gentrifying and everything changed on the Camp. We all paid £1,000 a year for our plots but clearly this wasn’t enough. We were told in no uncertain terms that we had to buy a new van, no vans were allowed on site that were more than 5 years old. They could offer us a new van for the discount price of £14,000; I was earning £5,000 a year at the time and my husband Bri was on about £11,000. We said we couldn’t afford their fabulous offer, it was difficult enough to find the £1,000 a year rent as it was. We were then told that our van would be towed off of our current plot, and given a plot at the back of the camp by the rubbish dump for the same rent. Sadly we said that if this were the case we would leave the camp. The answer to that from the Boutflour management was our van would be towed off site and we would have to find a buyer and pay them 20% of the selling price plus £600 towing fee. We were distraught; as far as we were concerned we were being thrown off the site for no good reason. They were out to make as much money as possible unlike the Bamber’s that wanted an income but also cared that people had a chance of a peaceful holiday in beautiful surroundings. 

Everyone on site was shocked about Jeremy, we couldn’t believe that the boy was capable of such an act of murder.  There were a few who of course believed it to be true but there is always one. We want Jeremy to at the very least be bailed pending an appeal right now.