Joanna Yeates was strangled by a neighbour who drove to Asda minutes later with her body in the boot of his car, then texted his girlfriend to say that he was "bored", a court heard yesterday.
CCTV footage played to jurors showed Vincent Tabak, 33, at a store in Bedminster, Bristol. He bought crisps, rock salt and beer before dumping the 25-year-old landscape architect's corpse in a country lane, jurors were told on the first day of his murder trial.
Ms Yeates disappeared just before Christmas last year. As her family waited for news, Mr Tabak was using the internet to research the rate at which a body decomposes, it was alleged. "As one young man [Ms Yeates's boyfriend Greg Reardon] was becoming more and more worried in his flat about his missing girlfriend, on the other side of the common wall was her killer who had already embarked on research – research that reflects his involvement," said Nigel Lickley, QC, for the prosecution.
Mr Tabak, 33, a Dutch engineer, went on with his normal life "misleading and manipulating" everyone around him, Mr Lickley told jurors. When asked at a dinner party what he thought Ms Yeates's killer would be like, Mr Tabak said he must be a "detached, crazy person", Mr Lickley said, adding: "That ... was the defendant talking about himself."
After a week-long search, Ms Yeates's body was found covered by snow at Failand, near Bristol, by a couple walking their dog. Her parents watched at Bristol Crown Court as CCTV images of her last moments were shown. In the dock, Mr Tabak, who admits manslaughter but denies murder, listened with his head in his hands.
Jurors were told that on 17 December, while her boyfriend was away visiting his family, Ms Yeates had drinks with workmates before buying cider and a pizza and heading home to her flat in Clifton. Just after 8.30pm, she passed a priest and the pair commented on how slippery the roads were. Less than 20 minutes later, a couple walking past heard screams inside the flat. "[The wife] described the screaming as that of a lady and it sounded like someone in distress." Mr Lickley said. They heard more screams and a bump, but thought little more of it until days later, jurors were told. "Vincent Tabak strangled [Ms Yeates] with his hand or hands. He held her throat hard enough and long enough to kill her," Mr Lickley alleged. "He was in complete control and knew what he was doing."
With his girlfriend Tanja Morson at a work party, Mr Tabak went shopping. At 10.30pm, after buying crisps and beer, he texted her to say: "How are you? I am at the Asda buying crises [sic]. Was bored. Can't wait to pick you up."
Mr Lickley said: "The body may well have been in his car parked nearby." The defendant allegedly drove around, then dumped the corpse three miles away near a quarry. The trial continues.
Prosecution case: key claims so far
On the night of the killing, a couple walking past Ms Yeates's flat heard screams, but thought nothing more of it until they heard the police appeal.
The shopping trip
Soon after Ms Yeates was killed, Mr Tabak drove to Asda, where he bought beer, crisps and rock salt. "It may well be that Ms Yeates's body ... was in the boot of his car during his visit to Asda," said Nigel Lickley, QC, for the prosecution.
The text message
Mr Tabak sent his girlfriend a text message: "I am at Asda buying some crisis [sic]. Was bored. Can't wait to pick you up." The misspelling is believed to have been caused by the mobile's predictive text function.
The victim with no name
Despite Mr Tabak living next door to Ms Yeates, he had never met her and did not know her name.