Tabak contemplated suicide after killing Joanna Yeates
Thursday 20 October 2011
Joanna Yeates's killer tearfully apologised today for putting her family through hell.
Vincent Tabak said his actions were "horrendous" as he showed jurors with his own hand how he strangled his next-door neighbour.
Tabak, 33, said he had been attracted to the 25-year-old and "made a pass at her" when she invited him in.
But, giving evidence for the first time at Bristol Crown Court, he denied claims he wanted sex with Miss Yeates.
With her family watching just feet away, he outstretched his right arm in the courtroom to display the grip he used to kill her.
Tabak, who was shown pictures of Miss Yeates's injuries, wept as he said he would be haunted for the rest of his life.
The defendant - speaking with a shrill Dutch accent - said he "still can't believe" his crime and considered whether to jump off a bridge.
Miss Yeates's parents, David and Teresa, and boyfriend Greg Reardon looked on as Tabak told Bristol Crown Court: "I had ample opportunity to call the police and I did not do it.
"I can only say that I am really sorry that I am responsible for her death and that I am responsible for putting her parents and Greg through a week of hell ... knowing where she was.
"I still cannot believe that I was capable (of that).
"It will haunt me for the rest of my life, no matter what sentence I get."
Tabak said he did not mean to take her life, telling the jury: "I got the impression she wanted to kiss me. She had been friendly."
When asked why he put his hand to Miss Yeates's throat, Tabak said: "I was panicking. I wanted to stop her screaming. I wanted to calm her down."
He confirmed he had her body in his car when he went shopping later in the evening at Asda.
"I can't believe I did that," he told the jury. "I was not thinking straight."
In the build-up to Miss Yeates's death on December 17, Tabak said he had been watching television, eating pizza and drinking beer before deciding to visit the supermarket "to buy myself some small treats".
He said he thought he left his flat "within minutes" after sending girlfriend Tanja Morson a text message at 9.25pm saying: "Missing you loads. It's boring here without you. Vxx."
Tabak said he was "not 100%" clear of the sequence of events that followed but said he remembered taking "my usual route" past Miss Yeates's flat next door in Clifton, Bristol.
He noticed Miss Yeates through her kitchen window. Tabak said: "I waved to her and she waved back."
He added: "She was friendly, coming to open the front door. She invited me in."
Tabak said he took off his coat, put it on the coat rack in his neighbour's hall and went into her kitchen.
"I recall we talked about (how) my girlfriend was away at a Christmas party and I felt a bit lonely, bored," Tabak said.
She made a reference to her partner, Mr Reardon, being away, Tabak added.
Tabak - who denies murder but admits manslaughter - said the pair flirted as they talked about her cat and his recent work trip to Los Angeles.
They chatted for roughly 10 minutes before "I decided to make a pass at her".
"She started to scream quite loudly. I panicked and I put one of my hands over her mouth. I said something like 'I'm sorry, it's OK. Please stop'."
After strangling her for less than a minute "she went limp, she fell to the floor", Tabak said.
Claiming he did not mean to kill Miss Yeates, Tabak added: "I still can't understand what happened."
He told the court that he briefly took Miss Yeates's body back to his flat to put her in a bicycle cover, adding: "I carried her with my arms. One hand was underneath her back, the other was under her knees."
Despite carrying out the killing, Tabak then decided to continue with his visit to Asda.
"I can't believe I did that," he told the jury. "I was not thinking straight."
Having picked up rock salt, beer and crisps at the supermarket, he said he started driving to Bristol Airport when he stopped at Longwood Lane, Failand, where "I did something horrendous. I decided to leave her body there".
During cross-examination, Nigel Lickley QC told Tabak "you are calculating, you are manipulative and you are dishonest.
"You were like it after those events, you were like it before and during here today.
"That's you, Vincent Tabak, is it not?"
The defendant went on to say that he just wanted a kiss and no more.
Mr Lickley said: "You were, in fact, thinking of more ... having kisses and kisses and kisses ... thinking of having sex with Joanna Yeates."
Tabak replied: "No, I wasn't."
Miss Yeates's body was found by dog walkers on Christmas Day. Tabak was arrested on January 20.
Mr Clegg asked why Tabak had attempted to contact his girlfriend.
"I was in a state of shock, panic, not believing what has happened," Tabak said.
"I was responsible for her death. I am so sorry. I just wanted to reach out to Tanja to speak to her, to get support from her, to hear her voice, anything."
Mr Clegg asked Tabak about why he had put the word "crisis" in the text message he sent to Miss Morson from Asda.
"That's how I felt. I had, um, done something... still couldn't believe I had done it.
"I was still in a state of shock. I didn't know what to do - just total panic."
Tabak explained why he dumped Miss Yeates's body on the grass verge in Longwood Lane.
"Eventually I left her on the roadside verge.
"While trying to lift her body, two or three cars passed and I was just in a state of total panic and stress and I left her on the roadside verge.
"I am so sorry for doing that. I put Jo's parents through a week of hell and I still cannot believe I did that."
In cross-examination, Mr Lickley showed Tabak pictures of the injuries Miss Yeates suffered.
"There is no doubt you wanted to hurt her," the prosecutor said.
Tabak replied: "I didn't want to hurt her, I didn't want her to die and I didn't want to cause her any harm."
Mr Lickley also questioned Tabak about the contradictions in his defence statement and what he told the jury earlier.
Mr Lickley said: "I am going to suggest that far from panicking, you were completely in control, in control of everything you were doing, particularly when you put your hand around her throat. That's right isn't it?"
Tabak replied: "No, that's not right."
Mr Lickley said: "Because at any point you could have let go, correct?"
The prosecutor said Tabak then began constructing an alibi by making sure he was seen in Asda and sending a text message to his girlfriend from there.
Mr Lickley then asked Tabak about what he and Miss Morson did between arriving home at 2am on the Saturday and going to bed at 3am.
"What were you doing between 2am and 3am? Did you have sex?," he asked.
Tabak replied: "No, I don't think so but I cannot exactly remember what we were doing."
Mr Lickley asked: "But you don't rule it out?"
The night after Miss Yeates's death, Tabak went to a friend's birthday party with Miss Morson, celebrating the occasion with champagne.
"Twenty-four hours after killing that young woman you were drinking a glass of champagne," Mr Lickley said.
The trial continues.
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