The retired schoolteacher arrested in connection with the murder of Joanna Yeates was let go last night after being questioned by police for three days. Christopher Jefferies, 65, was released on police bail, pending further inquiries, more than 60 hours after his arrest on Thursday morning at his flat in the Clifton area of Bristol.
Mr Jefferies was the murdered woman’s landlord and they both had flats in the same Victorian apartment building. On Friday, police were given permission by magistrates to continue holding him until tomorrow morning.
The release came just a few hours after Ms Yeates’s family made an emotional statement describing how her life had been stolen from her but expressing confidence that police would find her killer.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones said shortly after the release: “Firstly I would like to reassure the public that this investigation is very much ongoing. We have a team of over 70 police officers and staff working tirelessly to bring the person responsible for Joanna’s death to justice.
“The incident room has been inundated with thousands of calls from members of the public who have provided us with information. This information is being scrutinised and followed up by specially trained officers who are exhausting every lead and avenue that we are provided with.
“I would once again urge anyone who may not have called us to make contact with one of my officers and provide us with any information you may have. You may think your information is insignificant but please let us decide. This will be treated in confidence.”
Detectives are especially keen to speak to anyone who used Longwood Lane in Failand, Bristol, between 17 December, when Miss Yeates disappeared, and Christmas Day, when her body was discovered there.
“Did you see anyone or any vehicle acting suspiciously in the area?” he asked, and added: “We also know that there were large Christmas functions taking place at Long Ashton Golf Club, Bristol and Clifton Golf Club and Redwood Lodge. I would again urge taxi drivers and those who drove to functions to call us. They may have information that could prove vital.”
Mr Jefferies was arrested after appearing to give a conflicting differing accounts of the evening of Friday 17 December – the last time Ms Yeates was seen alive – in a television interview and in what he is believed to have told police. Her snow-covered body was found by dog walkers in Failand, north Somerset, on Christmas Day.
The painstaking forensic examination of the flats occupied by Ms Yeates and her landlord continued yesterday. On Friday detectives interviewed Peter Stanley, 56, Ms Yeates’s neighbour, who said that on the day she vanished, Mr Jefferies had helped her boyfriend, Greg Reardon, start his car with jump leads, so that he could drive to Sheffield.
A grey Volvo S40 and a silver Chrysler have also been taken for examination. As lurid media reporting of Mr Jefferies’ background intensified on New Year’s Eve, the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve QC, warned the press to be mindful of the risk of prejudicing a possible future trial. The case has also raised legal questions about the in-depth commentary on the internet and in social media.
The firm of architects, BDP – where Ms Yeates worked in a team designing the landscaping for a new Bristol hospital – is planning a memorial for her.
Family statement: 'Jo was a talented young lady, destined to fly high'
"Our lives stopped from the time that we knew Jo was missing. Was she dead or alive – and what happened to her? We dreaded going to our graves without knowing. In a very strange way, Jo's body being found was a relief. For us it was surprisingly easy to see Jo, but there was a deep sadness. We gain a little solace from the fact that the high point in Jo's life was her graduation in November when her life was perfect. Our grief and sadness includes the experiences she missed out on in terms of family and children and rising through her profession. For us we will always miss the presence that came with her, and standing back with pride and watching her grow through life.
"We have been overawed by the amount of support and practical help from the people in Bristol, and especially close friends Emma and Becky. We would also like to thank Jo's relatives and friends who set up facilities on websites. This generated an overwhelming response. We would also like to thank everyone personally, but that would be impossible, so please take this as a thank you to everyone.
"We have received many cards and letters of sympathy. They have all been read. They have come from all over, many from people we have never met. All of them moved us, especially a card in which was written a four-line poem. In time we will endeavour to answer those we can.
"We have found the police most considerate. We continue to give them our full support and help. We are certain that Jo's killer will be caught.
"Jo was a beautiful and talented young lady who was destined to fly high. Her life was stolen from her and she was stolen from us."