I'm sorry I put you through a week of hell: Tabak weeps as he apologises to parents of Jo Yeates

Killer of landscape architect tells court that a flirtatious encounter went horribly wrong – but cannot explain the multiple injuries suffered by his victim

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The Independent Online

The family of Joanna Yeates sat a few feet from her killer at Bristol Crown Court yesterday as he demonstrated how he strangled her.

"It was like this," said Vincent Tabak, 33, holding up his right hand, open and outstretched. The Dutch engineer was giving his first public account of how he killed the landscape architect, 25, in her flat in Clifton, Bristol, on 17 December last year, before dumping her body on a roadside verge. She was found by two walkers on Christmas Day.

"I did something horrendous," Tabak said, weeping as he explained what happened when he arrived at the secluded spot at Failand, three miles from Clifton, after midnight.

"I decided to leave her body there. Two or three cars drove past. I was in a state of total panic and stress. I am so sorry for doing that. I put Jo's parents and Greg [Reardon, her boyfriend] through a week of hell."

Ms Yeates's parents, David and Teresa, did not look at Tabak once as he answered questions for several hours. Tabak's two sisters were also present. Nigel Lickley, QC, for the prosecution, called him "calculating, dishonest and manipulative" as he questioned his recollections of what took place.

Tabak said Ms Yeates invited him into her flat, then flirted with him, after the two had made eye contact as he passed her kitchen window. The pair had never spoken before.

He told jurors they talked about her cat, which had found its way into his flat when he was away working in Los Angeles the previous month. "She made a bit flirty comment," he said. "Something like the cat went into places that it shouldn't go. A bit like me. I decided to make a pass at her. I got the impression she wanted to kiss me."

It is then that Tabak claims Ms Yeates screamed. He said he covered her mouth to stop her cries and put a second hand around her throat. After about 20 seconds, her body went limp, he said.

Residents of neighbouring flats have said they heard screams. Tabak recounted in detail the events of that evening, including what he had to eat and text messages he sent to his girlfriend, but when questioned about how Ms Yeates came to die he told the court he could not remember.

"Could you see in her eyes that she was frightened?" Mr Lickley asked him.

"I can't remember," he answered.

The court was shown photographs of Ms Yeates's bruised nose and lips, marks on her chin and around her neck, swollen bruising next to her eye, and abrasions on the side of her face, injuries that Mr Lickley said were caused while she was alive.

"You caused those injuries didn't you, Mr Tabak, as part of this incident. That young woman was resisting you, Vincent Tabak, but you were not going to let her get away. Correct?"

"I don't know," he said. "I don't know."

Tabak claims he put Ms Yeates's body on her bed before carrying her back to his flat. He said he found it "difficult" to get her body into his waterproof bicycle cover, and then into the boot of his car. He also tried twice to push Ms Yeates's body over a wall near the roadside at Failand, but was unable to.

"I was sweating, exhausted," he told the court. It is at this point that he claims her T-shirt became rucked up. Ms Yeates was found with her right breast exposed, on which police found traces of Tabak's DNA.

He texted his girlfriend, Tanya Morsten, several times after he killed Ms Yeates, claiming to be bored. "I was in a state of shock," he said, defending his actions. "Panic. I'm so sorry."

Mr Lickley read out texts Tabak sent to his worried girlfriend as the murder gained an extremely high profile in the national media. "Let's hope nothing bad has happened and she is discovered healthy and well today or tomorrow," he told her in one message.

Another read: "If something bad has happened I don't want to live there anymore. Too scary."

Tabak admits manslaughter but denies murder, and the trial continues.