Joanna Yeates killer 'shopped after death'

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The Independent Online

A killer neighbour strangled Joanna Yeates then went shopping in Asda with her body in the boot, a court heard today.

Vincent Tabak texted his girlfriend to say he was bored just minutes after murdering the 25-year-old landscape architect, a jury was told.

He avoided police suspicion for weeks by maintaining the pretence that he was a concerned neighbour, the prosecution claims.

As the murder inquiry made international headlines, Tabak told a guest at a dinner party the killer must be a "crazy, detached person", Bristol Crown Court heard.

The 33-year-old - who has admitted manslaughter but denies murder - also sent a string of emails to his girlfriend to cover his tracks, describing the case as "creepy", Nigel Lickley, for the Crown, said.

Bespectacled Tabak, a Dutch engineer, looked on from the dock as Mr Lickley said: "He was able to mislead and manipulate others and to hide his inner feelings. He was in complete control and knew what he was doing."

CCTV footage showed him wandering the aisles at an Asda supermarket in Bedminster, Bristol, less than two hours after the killing on December 17.

Within minutes of "squeezing the life out" of Miss Yeates, Tabak was claimed to have sent his girlfriend a text message: "Miss you loads. It's boring here without you Vxx".

He then went to the 24-hour supermarket to buy rock salt - for melting ice - along with crisps and beer.

"It must be that the body of Joanna Yeates was in the boot of his car at the time of his visit to Asda," Mr Lickley said.

A forensic examination of the scene where her body was found located Miss Yeates' blood on a wall of a neighbouring quarry - suggesting Tabak tried but failed to lift her corpse over.

Miss Yeates' mother Teresa - flanked by husband David - wept in the public gallery as the jury was shown CCTV footage of the victim enjoying drinks with friends before she was killed.

Miss Yeates had not known Tabak despite being his next-door neighbour.

On the night of her death, one couple walking past her flat heard two screams, one muffled, before a thud like furniture moving, Mr Lickley said.

Miss Yeates had got home after drinks and "settled down for the evening when she was interrupted by Vincent Tabak".

"There were screams heard by neighbours at a nearby party," Mr Lickley said. "Those screams were Vincent Tabak attacking her."

Mr Lickley added: "Having killed her, he drove her body in the boot of his Renault Megane car and deposited her in Longwood Lane."

Tabak had attempted to hide Miss Yeates' body by covering it with leaves.

"Before Joanna Yeates' boyfriend, Greg Reardon, had reported his girlfriend missing in the early hours of the morning, Vincent Tabak was using Google Maps to search for Longwood Lane," he added.

"It is a striking feature of this case that, as one young man became more and more worried about his missing girlfriend, there, on the other side of the common wall, was her killer."

Mr Reardon returned to their flat in Canynge Road, Clifton, on the evening of December 19 after a weekend away visiting family.

The jury heard a clearly distressed Mr Reardon call 999 after finding her mobile phone and coat still in the flat.

"Eventually, realising that all was not well, he called the police," Mr Lickley said.

"The police knocked on Vincent Tabak's door during their inquiries and spoke to him and his girlfriend in the early hours of December 20."

Footage of Miss Yeates at the Bristol Ram showed her in a long-sleeved pink top and jeans, with a white watch.

"She was found (on Christmas Day) wearing this," Mr Lickley added.

She walked home at about 8pm via a Bargain Booze shop and a local Tesco, picking up a mozzarella and basil "Finest" pizza.

Mr Lickley said: "The pizza and its box have not been found. Joanna Yeates did not eat it. Vincent Tabak took it, as he did one of her socks. Why he took these items only he can say."

Mr Lickley told how Miss Yeates's body was found by a couple on Christmas morning who had opened presents early and set off for a walk with their dog in Failand, on the outskirts of the city.

"They walked past a mound of snow," Mr Lickley said. "Something triggered in the mind of the man.

"From a distance he saw features that indicated that a human body was buried in the snow ... a patch of skin and some denim."

Mr Lickley added: "The missing person inquiry that had commenced became a murder inquiry from that moment."

When detectives announced they were looking for the box of the pizza that Miss Yeates bought, Tabak scoured the internet to see when rubbish had been collected, records showed.

He also researched body decomposition and information on the sentences for murder and manslaughter.

Tabak was described as being "relatively calm" when officers visited his home in the early hours after Miss Yeates was reported missing.

The case was adjourned until tomorrow.