A Dutch engineer admitted the manslaughter of his neighbour Joanna Yeates but pleaded not guilty to murder yesterday. The parents of the young landscape architect, whose frozen body was found beneath snow on Christmas Day, after she disappeared following a night out with colleagues in Bristol, were at the Old Bailey to hear Vincent Tabak enter his pleas.
Mr Tabak, 33, lived in an adjacent flat in the Victorian mansion block at the centre of the high-profile police inquiry into Ms Yeates's death. He was remanded in custody and will face an expected four-week trial at Bristol Crown Court in October after the prosecution rejected his manslaughter plea. The charge states that Mr Tabak "unlawfully killed" the 25-year-old between 16 and 19 December.
Mr Tabak, who appeared via videolink from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, denied murder. Quietly spoken and wearing glasses, a dark suit and a dark blue tie, the multilingual design expert confirmed his name and said he was content for proceedings to continue in English without the help of an interpreter. As the legal timetable was discussed, he sipped water from a cup and made occasional notes.
Detective Chief Inspector Phillip Jones, of Avon and Somerset Police, who led the investigation, said: "The not guilty plea to Joanna Yeates's murder entered by Vincent Tabak today at the Old Bailey means that there will be a full trial in due course.
"Tabak has entered a plea to manslaughter; this has not been accepted by the Crown. Until this trial takes place , it would be inappropriate and potentially prejudicial for us to comment further."
Miss Yeates had been out enjoying pre-Christmas drinks with colleagues at the popular Bristol Ram pub on the evening of 17 December.
On the way home to the flat she shared with her boyfriend, Greg Reardon, 27, in the Clifton area, she was captured on CCTV as she visited a Tesco Express to buy a pizza which was never eaten. She wasn't seen again.
Mr Reardon raised the alarm on 19 December. A week later, dog-walkers found her body on a verge in a lane in Failand, north Somerset, three miles from Bristol. A post-mortem examination revealed she had been strangled.
Ms Yeates's funeral in February was at St Mark's Church, in Ampfield, Hampshire, where she was christened and grew up. Mr Reardon said: "Jo was a beautiful woman, beautiful in mind, body and soul. She had a great career ahead of her as a landscape architect and would have achieved a great many more things in her life if only she was given the chance."
The victim's landlord Chris Jefferies, 66, a retired lecturer, was initially arrested. He was questioned, then released with no charge.