The Trial

Crime Files

The Trial

Not suceide but Murder

The trial commenced at Chelmsford crown court on 14 October 1986. Bamber’s girlfriend Julie Mugford was the star witness.

She alleged that Bamber had made murderous threats against his father. She told the court that Bamber had made the reference that his "old" father, "mad" mother and sister had "nothing to live for". It was then that he spoke of arson and later a desire to hire a hitman.

There were two explanations for the killings. The first was the prosecution case that Bamber entered the Essex farmhouse owned by his mother and father at night and shot the five members of his family with a legally held rifle.

Sheila’s blood was in the silencer of the murder weapon, proving that she could not have shot herself then put it in a cupboard downstairs.

The second explanation, put forward by the defence, was that Sheila, who had a history of psychiatric illness, had shot the four members of her family with the rifle and then committed suicide.

In the initial stages the police thought it likely that the second explanation was correct. Some officers, however, thought that some of the findings were inconsistent with this explanation and members of the Bambers’ extended family did not believe that it was consistent with their knowledge of Sheila.

Despite mounting evidence, Bamber remained confident that he would leave court a free man. However, the jury at Chelmsford crown court delivered a guilty verdict by ten to two.

Bamber was handed five life sentences, with a recommendation that he stay in prison for at least 25 years without parole. After the sentencing, Mr Justice Drake said: "I find it difficult to foresee whether it will ever be safe to release someone who can shoot two little boys as they lie asleep in their beds.”

He also noted the problems that had taken place during initial enquiries and throughout the main police investigations.

The first major error in this case was the police allowing the house be cleared shortly after the killings. The house itself had been cleaned and the carpets and bedclothes burned on instruction of Bamber.Bamber’s fingerprints were eventually discovered on the bible and gun left on Sheila’s body, but were missed during the initial inquiries.

It was also revealed that while Bamber had said that he received a panic-stricken phone call from his father, Neville had actually been shot in the throat in the upstairs of the house and couldn’t have made such a call.This catalogue of blunders led the trial judge Mr Justice Drake to comment “The perfunctory examination is only explicable because the police thought there was nothing to solve.”