"We all have a right to our private lives; it's living a secret life that gets us in trouble."
It was the 17th of December 2010. A Friday. Twenty five year old Joanna Yeates and her boyfriend Greg Reardon had only recently moved to Bristol from Winchester in the United Kingdom. They both worked for the same firm and in October 2010, they found an apartment at Canynge Road in Clifton.
Their apartment was part of a large house. The downstairs space of the house had been divided into two separate apartments and the landlord and owner of the property lived upstairs. The occupants of the other apartment were also a young couple and they had lived there for eighteen months.
That evening, Joanna went out with colleagues for a drink after work. As it was a Friday and so close to Christmas, there was a great atmosphere around and everyone was in good form. Joanna was not looking forward to spending the weekend alone though. Greg went to Yorkshire for the weekend to spend time with his family before Christmas. He was due back on the Sunday night but it was the first time Joanna was alone since they moved to Bristol. But, she knew it was almost Christmas so they had some days off to look forward to and they had already decorated the apartment with Christmas decorations.
Greg and Joanna
Joanna stayed in the Ram pub for a while having fun and left the pub on Park Street before 8pm so that she could go home and have some food. It was particularly cold that night. It had been snowing and there was snow and ice on the ground.
On her way home, Joanna stopped off at three different stores to get some food and drink. She bought a tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza and two bottles of cider. It would have been around 8.45pm by the time she got back to her apartment and she put on the oven for her pizza straight away and text a few friends.
Greg tried to reach Joanna multiple times the next day, the Saturday, but received no response. When he got back to the apartment on the Sunday, Joanna wasn't there. He called her and much to his alarm, he heard Joanna's phone ring in the pocket of her coat which was hanging up in the hall. Joanna's purse was also in the apartment. Greg had no idea where Joanna was and their cat, Brendan, had not been fed either so he feared the worst.
Greg reported Joanna missing at 12.45am.
Due to the items that Joanna had left behind and the fact there had been no sightings of her or any further activity with her accounts, police believed early in the investigation that they were dealing with a murder case, not a missing person case. A few days after Joanna was reported missing, police carried out a routine search of the apartment beside Joanna's apartment. Vincent Tabac, a highly educated Dutch Engineer, lived there with his girlfriend, an analyst with Dyson,Tanja Morson. They seemed like a quiet couple and a couple who were very much in love. They had been together for three years and planned to marry. Police spoke with them but they told police that neither of them knew anything.
The night that Joanna went missing, Tanja had been out at a works party and Vincent told police that he was home all evening and collected Tanja at 2am. Vincent confirmed to police that he did not know Greg or Joanna. Greg and Joanna had only lived there since October and Vincent was in California in November for work. He got back on the 11th of December so he had not even met them before Joanna went missing.
Vincent and Tanja
Vincent and Tanja then left Bristol for the Christmas vacation and went to Cambridge to spend Christmas with Tanja's parents and then to Amsterdam for the New Year.
On Christmas morning, back in Bristol, the search for Joanna came to an end. A dog walker found Joanna's body covered in leaves and a pile of snow next to a quarry wall at Longwood Lane, Failand. It was three miles from Clifton. Joanna had been murdered.
Police focused on Joanna's landlord Christopher Jefferies. They arrested him and questioned him in relation to Joanna's murder. Vincent saw on the news on TV that Christopher had been arrested and he contacted police to tell them that Christopher had been out in his car the night Joanna went missing.
Police met with Vincent to find out exactly what he knew but his own actions created suspicion. He wanted to know about the forensic examinations police were carrying out. As they questioned him further, his story began to change. Vincent originally told police that he stayed in all night until 2am when he went to collect Tanja. He now said that he in fact went out twice before that, to take photographs and go to the supermarket.
Police asked Vincent for a DNA sample. He made sure to tell them that he was in Joanna's apartment previously but it was before she went missing and only when he was speaking with his landlord Christopher. He gave them a DNA sample.
On the 20th of January, police informed Vincent that his DNA linked him to Joanna's body. He was charged with Joanna's murder. Christopher Jefferies was not questioned further. He had nothing to do with Joanna's murder.
At his Trial, Vincent told the Court that he did kill Joanna but it was an accident. He said that he was guilty of manslaughter only and not murder because he did not intend to cause her serious injury and did not want to kill her. According to Vincent, Joanna, a woman who was all in all a stranger to him, invited him into her apartment that night. They spoke in the kitchen and she made a flirty comment. This led him to try to kiss her but she screamed. To prevent her from screaming, Vincent put his left hand over her mouth and his right hand around her throat. She was dead within twenty seconds.
Vincent at the store after he killed Joanna
He put Joanna's body in the boot of his car. He then went to the store to buy beer and crisps. But it was his online searches that revealed more than Vincent would admit to. He searched for the difference between murder and manslaughter and the definition of sexual assault.
The Prosecution told the Court that his version of events was not the correct one. Joanna's own body told a different story. They believed that Vincent watched her that night as she returned home. Vincent admitted he was attracted to Joanna. He knew she would be home alone as the landlord had mentioned it in passing. Minutes after Joanna arrived home, they believed that Vincent found an excuse to knock on her door. It would be the first time they met. It may have been something to do with her cat Bernard but only Vincent knows exactly what happened and how he got into her apartment that night.
It was the Prosecution's case that when he was in the apartment, the attack may have started in the hallway. At about 8.50pm , just a few minutes after Joanna had returned home that night, partygoers heading to a nearby house heard two screams. There was complete silence after that.
There were forty three injuries on Joanna's body. She had wounds on her face, throat and arms. The jeans she had been wearing had not been touched but her T-shirt had been pulled up above her breasts and part of her right breast was exposed. Vincent had a number of scratches and marks on his arms. When asked how he got them, he said that he could not remember. He said there was no fight or struggle but they looked like defensive wounds.
Court sketch of Joanna's parents and Vincent
It was the Prosecution's case that the reason Vincent murdered Joanna was because he had a sexual motive. There was an hour missing from when Joanna was killed to when Vincent put her body in his boot and only Vincent knows what happened during that time. It emerged that Vincent was obsessed with violent sex and pornography. Videos were found on his laptop of blonde women being strangled. He wanted to act out his secret fantasies in real life and Joanna was exactly what he was looking for. Police also found 145 indecent images of children stored on the laptop.
Vincent was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison, to serve a minimum term of twenty years.
It is clear that for some time, Vincent led a double life. He managed to hide his addiction to porn and extreme images from his girlfriend and even his girlfriend's family found him to be a nice man before the truth was revealed. But for whatever reason, that night, the 17th of December 2010, he could no longer live a double life and he merged his online persona and fantasies with his "real" life. Vincent thought he would get away with it too but thankfully, due to the police, prosecution and jury, he was found guilty.
Joanna’s father David, mother Theresa, brother Chris and boyfriend Greg Reardon
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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