Chris Jefferies faced 'witch-hunt'

 

The retired teacher wrongly suspected of Joanna Yeates's murder today described how he was "shamelessly vilified" in a media "witch-hunt".

Christopher Jefferies felt as though he was under house arrest and was forced to move between friends after being released from police custody.

He told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards: "I can see now that, following my arrest, the national media shamelessly vilified me.

"The press set about what can only be described as a witch-hunt."

He said there had been a "frenzied campaign" to blacken his character, with some stories completely fabricated.

Mr Jefferies said having his photograph on the front page of a number of papers had made him "instantly recognisable".

"I had a distinctive appearance and it was as a result of the entire world knowing what I look like that it was suggested to me that I ought to change my appearance so that I would not be instantly recognisable and potentially harassed by the media."

The retired English teacher, who taught at Clifton College in Bristol, was arrested on December 30, 2010 and released on police bail on January 1 this year. Bail conditions were lifted in March.

The inquiry heard Mr Jefferies brought legal proceedings against eight newspapers concerning 40 different articles. The Attorney General brought contempt of court proceedings in relation to three articles.

Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked him about an occasion when he was referred to as a "sexually perverted voyeur".

"It was suggested there may have been some sort of sexual motive to the murder of Jo Yeates and at that time I was obviously a suspect of that murder," Mr Jefferies said.

"On the other hand it was suggested in some articles that I was gay so that created a problem as far as that was concerned.

"It was then suggested in another article that I was bisexual so the press were trying to have it every possible way."

Headlines about the landlord included The Strange Mr Jefferies, Jo Suspect Peeping Tom, Jo Suspect Scared Kids and Was Killer Waiting in Jo's Flat?, the inquiry heard.

He was called "creepy" and a "nutty professor", and one story claimed he was associated with a convicted paedophile.

But Mr Jefferies said he "rarely" saw the man - who was employed by Clifton College preparatory school and once lived in a flat in the building where he lives.

"I only came across him on a comparatively small number of occasion," he said.

One article featured a former pupil who claimed he was "fascinated with making lewd, sexual comments".

Mr Jefferies also said an article in The Sun on January 1, titled What do you think I am... a Pervert?, was "100% fabrication".

Other articles detailed his teachings; one said he had an "obsession" with poet Christina Rossetti and another that he had an academic fascination with death.

"If I have anything that could remotely be described as an obsession, it would be my dislike of Christina Rossetti," he said.

"I never taught it and I would never dream of encouraging other people to read it."

He told the inquiry he was contacted by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about what could be done to prevent a repeat of what happened to him.

Reading from his reply, he said any redress it may have given would been "wholly inadequate".

"It is no wonder that the PCC is held in such low esteem," he wrote.

"Indeed, I would suggest that the shocking and reckless irresponsibility displayed by sections of the media is in part attributable to the failure of the current regulatory system and the weakness of the voluntary code of practice."

Mr Jefferies said the period between his release and his bail conditions being lifted in March was spent living a "hole-in-corner existence" with his life suspended.

"In effect for a period after I was released I was effectively under house arrest and went from friends to friends rather as if I were a recusant priest at the time of the Reformation I suppose, going from safe house to safe house."

Mr Jefferies said he would never fully recover from the events of last year.

"I suppose it is true to say there will always be people who don't know me, people who don't know anybody that I know, who will retain the impression that I am some sort of very weird character indeed who is probably best avoided," he said.

"I will never fully recover from the events of last year. The incalculable effect of what was written about me by these highly influential tabloid newspapers is something from which it will be difficult ever to escape.

"The purpose of my agreeing to give this statement is that I hope it may prevent the same fate befalling someone else."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game