Why I believe in Jeremy Bamber by Lorna Lake
My grandmother had books on her shelves with such titles as “Poisoners of Women” and “Murder by Person or Persons Unknown” which were accounts of Victorian and early Twentieth Century crime which was enough to get me interested in the true crime genre. This was a time when the majority of the public believed that British Justice was fair - making only the “occasional” mistake. It was the concern about those mistakes that brought about the abolition of Capital Punishment in the United Kingdom in 1965.
There had been an outcry in 1923 when Edith Thompson was hanged - her husband was killed by her lover in October 1922 - the trial was a few weeks later in December where it was established that she influenced her lover and even though she did not physically carry out the murder she was convicted. There had been the infamous John Christie case – Christie was certainly guilty of six gruesome murders – he was tried in June 1953 and hanged in July 1953. But Timothy Evans had been already been hanged in 1950 for a murder that it had become clear Christie had committed. Timothy Evans was cleared of this murder in 1965 and posthumously pardoned.
There were other hideous errors: Mahmood Mattan had been hanged in 1952 and following years of campaigning he was declared innocent in 1998; Derek Bentley was hanged for his part in the shooting of a police officer even though it was known that he had learning disabilities and had not handled the gun – his “partner in crime” (who had fired the gun) was given a prison sentence as he was too young to face execution. The public had been greatly disturbed by the Ruth Ellis conviction – she shot her lover and though there was considerable evidence to demonstrate that she was emotionally unstable at the time, she was also hanged in July 1955.
But the repeal of Capital Punishment has not stopped great injustices being committed. In the last thirty years there have been many now infamous cases: Stephen Dowling imprisoned wrongly for 28 years; the Birmingham Six; Judith Ward in jail for 18 years; the Guildford Four and Gerry Conlan served 15 years; the Bridgewater Four – 18 years (though one man died in jail after only 2 years); Sean Hodgson served 27 years and Stefan Kiszko served 16 years and sadly died a broken man within a year of freedom.
The list goes on and each “case” represents human tragedy compounded by an antiquated legal system which has resisted reform and is somehow insulated against scrutiny. Too many convictions have been due to fabricated evidence and careless investigation on the part of the police.
The public is now able to access information regarding crimes and criminals on the internet – there is a wealth of detail available on dedicated sites which may even include post mortem results and even photographs of crime scenes. Mainly this is good – it leads to so-called “transparency” where we, the Great British Public, can become fully informed. There is a downside to all of this – the public is led to think that all information is available and this is simply not true. Some information regarding the Jeremy Bamber case is locked away under the rules of “PII” not only from the public but even from Jeremy’s Defence lawyers – in total 340,000 documents and 259 photographs are withheld. Jeremy has been in prison for 26 years for a crime he could not possibly have committed. There was absolutely no forensic evidence against him – all the evidence was circumstantial and witness statements that were demonstrably inaccurate.
The tragic deaths at White House Farm in August 1985 took from Jeremy a family who he loved as well as his freedom. Scott Lomax wrote the excellent book “Jeremy Bamber: Evil, almost beyond belief” which is certainly a very good introduction to the case. The available evidence totally supports Jeremy’s innocence and even now more evidence is coming to light despite Essex Police and the relatives having destroyed items which could have helped at the time of the trial and they even fabricated evidence too. There are many people who should truly hang their heads in shame for their part in this travesty. What started as a relatively simple but devastating family tragedy has turned into one of the gravest miscarriages of justice that this country has ever seen.
There’s another worrying aspect to this case – in 1985 Care in the Community was being introduced – the Great British Public was already concerned at the prospect of mad people being loose in the streets – the last thing the Establishment wanted was a family to be wiped out by a poor lady inadequately treated for schizophrenia. There was a great deal of money to be made from the new plans for the mentally ill – there were many psychiatric hospitals on prime building sites and many property developers were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of the profits ahead. There have been many terrible incidents where mentally ill women have murdered their children during the past 25 years – Sheila was sadly the first. The Establishment had many reasons to find Jeremy Bamber guilty.
I had been initially a little nervous about writing to Jeremy – although I had no doubt about his innocence I was worried that my name and address might end up in the wrong hands – but after a little procrastination I plucked up the courage and wrote a card and enclosed some stamps and I was astonished when only 3 days later I received a very friendly letter in reply. That was the start of our regular correspondence – letters which contained news of his case and sincere friendship too. I have a lifetime’s experience of people and additionally I trained as a mental health nurse – I’ve never heard or read anything from Jeremy which has given me a moment’s doubt about his innocence. We speak on the phone regularly which of course has added a valuable dimension to our friendship not least his sense of humour. Jeremy is never self-absorbed despite his cruel circumstances and he always remembers to ask about my dear old uncle and even my dog. With little preamble I’ve asked Jeremy very direct questions about that night’s events – there’s never any hesitation in answering nor is there any hint that he resents such enquiry. I’ve seen it stated that Jeremy is arrogant – he is not – he is very intelligent, very loyal, very kind and very sensitive and he brings those qualities to his friendships. In short, and as has been said before, Jeremy is a very special yet ordinary man in truly extraordinary and outrageous circumstances.
I’m proud to call him My Friend.