Jo Yeates killed 'after failed kiss'

Barrister claims Tabak misread signs after architect invited him in to her flat

Joanna Yeates's killer claims he simply "misread" the situation when he strangled her, the murder trial heard yesterday.

Vincent Tabak's barrister insisted that the defendant had first tried to kiss the 25-year-old landscape architect and that her death was a tragic misfortune caused by her horrified reaction.

While condemning his client, who admits manslaughter but denies murder, as "calculating" in his attempts to cover up Miss Yeates's death, William Clegg QC insisted he had never intended to kill her.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court had heard how she had been strangled after returning home from Friday night drinks with colleagues on 17 December last year, and suffered 43 injuries.

In the first description of Tabak's version of events, Mr Clegg said it was "pure chance" that the two neighbours, who were virtual strangers, were home alone. Mr Clegg insisted the young woman had been "bored and lonely" with her boyfriend away.

The 33-year-old Dutch engineer had walked past her kitchen window and she invited him in, marking, the QC said, an "unfortunate starting point for the defence case".

"She said that her boyfriend was away and she was alone and he said that his girlfriend was away and he was alone," the lawyer said. "And as the two of them talked inside that flat, Vincent Tabak completely misread the situation that he had walked into... He misread her friendliness towards him and made a move towards her as if he was about to kiss her on the lips."

As he put his arm around Miss Yeates, she screamed and he put a hand over her mouth, Mr Clegg continued. "He said to her 'stop screaming'. He apologised and said he was sorry.

"He took his hand away and she carried on screaming. He panicked. He put one hand around her throat and the other over her mouth. In seconds – far less than a minute – Joanna went limp. She was dead."

The court heard earlier how Tabak had searched the internet almost hourly after disposing of the body. He watched a time lapse video of a decomposing corpse, searched for definitions of "sexual conduct" and "sexual assault", researched the average sentences for murder and manslaughter and examined the unsolved murders of Melanie Hall and Anni Dewani.

Mr Clegg added: "Despite the awful secret he was carrying, he tried to carry on as before, going to dinner parties, going to work, living with his girlfriend and living a lie."

The trial continues today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss