The trial began on 4 October at Bristol Crown Court. It was led by judge Mr Justice Field with Nigel Lickley QC as prosecutor and William Clegg QC defending. It would finish just over three weeks later.
During the trial details emerged of the moment just after Joanna’s disappearance when the police had knocked on Tabak’s door. According to one officer he had appeared calm, unlike his girlfriend, who had showed extreme concern. Having initially been ruled out as a suspect Tabak had been allowed to spend the New Year celebrations in Holland. During that time his girlfriend Miss Morson had contacted police with information about Jefferies. The police had flown out to Holland to get statements from the couple, but there were inconsistencies with Tabak’s version of events.
As the case continued Joanna’s parents were finally getting answers to what had happened to their daughter on the night of 17 December. Tabak told the jury that he had walked past Joanna’s kitchen window and she had invited him in. As the pair chatted Tabak claimed he misread the situation, due to a flirty comment that Joanna had made. He found her attractive that night and had gone to kiss her on the lips. Joanna screamed, and in a bid to silence her Tabak placed his hands around her neck. Within seconds she was dead.
The pathologist, Dr Delaney, revealed that Joanna suffered 43 injuries during the struggle that ended her life. He showed photographs to the jury of red bruise marks on her neck and chin, and blood underneath her nose. He made the jury aware that these injuries were sustained during life, while the heart was beating. He went on to say that Tabak would have seen her struggling to breathe. Mr Lickley, prosecuting, pointed out that Tabak was a foot taller than Joanna and could have removed his hand to save her. He chose not to which meant she endured a slow and painful death.
According to his defence, Mr Clegg QC told the jury that Tabak panicked and instead of calling the police he calmly turned the oven off and took out the pizza. He carried Joanna’s body to his flat next door and stored it in a bicycle cover. He then placed the body in the boot of his car and took a trip to his local Asda in Bedminster. Fibres discovered on Joanna’s body indicated she had come into contact with Tabak's black coat and his silver Renault Megane. The jury (consisting of six men and six women) were horrified to hear that after the killing he’d texted his girlfriend to say “miss you loads. It’s boring here without you”.
After the killing the jury were told that whenever Tabak was alone he would go online, frantically following the developments of the murder case. He researched refuse collection times, the location of the body and body decomposition time.
Forensic scientist Tanya Nickson explained that the presence of blood on the top of the wall near where the body had been found, in Longwood Lane, indicated Tabak had tried to lift Joanna’s body over it. Failing to do so, he had instead placed her body in a foetal-type position on the snow and covered it with leaves.
Returning home Tabak told the jury he disposed of the missing pizza and sock in an industrial wheelie bin. The police would never find what they first believed to be their vital clues.
He also divulged that he’d used his landlord as a scapegoat and tried to frame him for the murder. He fed the police a string of lies to hide his own guilt.
In court Tabak used the opportunity to apologise for putting Joanna’s family through a week of hell. The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict and instead came to a majority decision of 10-2. Mr Justice Field commented "in my view you are very dangerous. In my opinion you are thoroughly deceitful, dishonest and manipulative." He then sentenced Tabak to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years in jail.