Barbara De'Ath

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.