Joanna Yeates killer 'held her neck for 20 seconds as she screamed'

Court hears Tabak's statement that he did not intend to kill as he put his hand on victim's throat

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The Independent Online

Vincent Tabak has admitted to putting his hand around Joanna Yeates' neck for 20 seconds after she began screaming, a court heard yesterday.



The admission came as the jury at Bristol Crown Court was given its first insight into Mr Tabak's version of events in the death of the Bristol architect.

In a statement read out by prosecutor Nigel Lickley QC, the court heard that while accepting that his actions were unlawful, Mr Tabak insisted he "didn't intend death or serious injury".

"The two were facing each other. He put one arm around her back with his hand in the middle of her back," Mr Lickley said. "And she screamed. He put his other hand over her mouth, which caused the noise of the scream to cease. He removed his hand from her mouth and the screaming continued. He then put his hand around her throat. He believes it was the one that had been behind her back and held it there for about 20 seconds."

The 33-year-old Dutch engineer admits manslaughter but denies murder.

The court also heard how Mr Tabak attempted to incriminate landlord Christopher Jefferies in the disappearance of Ms Yeates by telling police Mr Jefferies' car had moved on the night Ms Yeates was killed. Mr Jefferies was released without charge in March.

The court heard that on the night Mr Jefferies was arrested, Mr Tabak's girlfriend, Tanja Morson, called police to offer information. The couple, who were staying with Mr Tabak's family in the Netherlands, had seen reports of Mr Jefferies' arrest on Dutch television, 13 days after Ms Yeates had disappeared.

Detective Constable Karen Thomas told the court that Mr Tabak had reported that Mr Jefferies' car had been moved on the night of 17 December. "Mr Tabak felt that was important information we should know about," she said. Detectives felt the information was so important that they travelled to the Netherlands to get a witness statement. Earlier, the boyfriend of Ms Yeates faced Mr Tabak in court as he described his increasing sense of panic when he realised she was missing.

Greg Reardon talked of returning to an empty flat. He telephoned Ms Yeates only to hear her phone ringing in the pocket of her discarded coat. Mr Tabak avoided eye contact with Mr Reardon, sitting with his hands covering his face.

The jury heard previously that Ms Yeates had been strangled after returning home from drinks with colleagues on 17 December last year. She suffered 43 injuries. A missing persons hunt was launched on the Sunday when Mr Reardon called the police but less than a week later, on Christmas Day, a couple out walking their dog found the landscape architect's body three miles from her home in Clifton, Bristol.

Yesterday, Mr Reardon, 28, explained that he got back from a weekend visiting relatives in Sheffield, expecting to watch The Apprentice final with Ms Yeates, 25, as they had planned.

Despite thinking the flat was untidy, he was initially unperturbed by her absence. It was not until he spotted her rucksack on the dining room table, in which were her glasses, keys and wallet, that concern turned to panic.

The trial continues.