Murder trial jury visits Joanna Yeates' flat
Wednesday 12 October 2011
Jurors at the Joanna Yeates murder trial today walked into a flat frozen in time.
They visited Miss Yeates's home which was poignantly preserved with personal belongings and Christmas decorations since she was killed on December 17.
Amid a heavy police presence, Mr Justice Field helped the jury retrace her steps through Bristol's upmarket Clifton district.
They briefly saw the garden flat where defendant Vincent Tabak lived before spending 22 minutes next door at Miss Yeates's home.
Inside, many belongings and mementoes had been left unmoved since her life was cut short at the age of 25.
Boyfriend Greg Reardon had returned to collect his possessions but Miss Yeates's clothes, belongings and furniture remained, the jury was told.
Miss Yeates's size five Asics running shoes had been left stacked in the yellow-painted entrance hall alongside her snow boots.
There were also two cat litter trays for the couple's pet.
The jury then walked into the living room, witnessing the scene of a couple preparing for Christmas.
There was a roll of unused wrapping paper under a table, an unopened box of Christmas crackers and shelves adorned with tinsel.
Miss Yeates's multi-coloured cycle helmet had also been left on show.
On the shelves in the couple's living room were puzzle games and memorabilia from the cult sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, including a picture montage with cast members and personal messages to "Jo and Greg".
Family pictures had been left at the flat but had been turned away from the jury's view.
Despite a damp smell after 10 months without heating in the basement flat, the layout of the living room remained untouched with a white two-seater sofa and dark blue L-shaped seating with white cushions.
The curtains were drawn with tinsel decorated along the rail.
There were obvious signs of police attempts to gather DNA evidence, with red dots and dust residue showing where detectives had found fingerprints.
Also on show was a bowl of Love Hearts sweets, postgraduate architecture notes, a box of pain killers, letters from a bank and a box of Christmas cards.
The jury was also shown the bedroom she shared with Mr Reardon.
Carpets had been removed by police but the couple's double bed and duvet remained with two wardrobes full of clothes and a bedside table adorned with perfumes, make-up and cuddly toys.
There was a half-used pink bottle of Lacoste fragrance as well as ornate boxes for her hairpins and brushes.
There was also a hairdryer on show and an empty bottle of cider in the living room.
There was further sign of police evidence taking in the small kitchen and bathroom, where a handful of bottles of shampoo and conditioners had been left. The shower and bath unit had been heavily dusted for fingerprints.
Plants had died on a hanging basket outside Miss Yeates' blue front door to the side of the building.
Before visiting the flat - which is set back on Canynge Road - the jury was taken in convoy on a luxury black coach up Park Street, where Miss Yeates had begun her night.
With police closing off the hill, the bus briefly stopped outside the BDP office, where she worked, then paused again outside the Bristol Ram pub where she had joined colleagues.
They disembarked the coach near Clifton Village, where they were guided on foot under clear blue skies through the bustling food stalls outside the Clifton Arcade.
The jurors were then walked around the corner to the Tesco Express - where Miss Yeates bought a pizza - and a shop, formerly named Bargain Booze, where she picked up some cider.
After CCTV cameras were pointed out to them at the Hophouse pub and on the corner of Canynge Road, they were taken down the narrow path entrance to Miss Yeates' home.
Dead cactuses and pot plants lined the sash windows outside. The jury also inspected the small window to the kitchen.
Miss Yeates suffered 43 injuries after being attacked by Tabak inside the flat, prosecutors claim. She was said to have suffered a slow and painful death.
Tabak's QC, William Clegg, had asked the jurors to think about four issues closely during the visit.
He wanted them to consider the time and distance it would take to walk from the Hophouse public house to Miss Yeates' home.
He also asked them to consider carefully the view from the kitchen window of her flat.
The jurors completed their trip by visiting the verge where her body was found on Christmas Day.
Unlike the snowy scenes last December, Longwood Lane was covered in autumn leaves as the coach arrived, flanked by police motorbikes and unmarked cars.
They briefly stopped at a spray-painted yellow mark where she was found.
Earlier they had crossed over Canynge Road to No 53 to stand by the front door, at Mr Clegg's request.
The barrister told them: "We would like you to go there and have in mind, having already been to No 44, whether in your judgment you think it possible that the scream that was made inside the flat of No 44 could possibly be heard if you are standing outside No 53?
"The defence are going to suggest that it was by no means certain that the scream that was heard was connected to this event at all because of the distance involved."
Jurors also walked the short distance to Percival Court, which is adjacent to the rear of Miss Yeates's flat at 44 Canynge Road.
Tabak, 33, kept his crime secret for more than six weeks before confessing to a prison chaplain, prosecutors claim.
Dutch engineer Tabak admits manslaughter but denies murder.
The case was adjourned to return to Bristol Crown Court tomorrow, when the jury will hear the first evidence from witnesses.
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