Christopher Jefferies: police offer 'unusual' vindication
Police apologise for suffering of the retired teacher falsely 'vilified' for murder of Joanna Yeates
THE retired teacher Christopher Jefferies initially arrested over the murder of Joanna Yeates has been "publicly vindicated" by police.
He was detained five days after the 25-year-old was found dead on Christmas Day in 2010, then bailed and subsequently released without charge.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary have now admitted that, in the light of unprecedented media attention, they should have publicly declared that Jefferies was no longer a suspect as soon as he was released from bail on 5 March 2011.
Nick Gargan, chief constable of the force, met privately with Jefferies on Friday to apologise and has written to him to acknowledge that he is "wholly innocent of the crime".
He wrote: "I understand the length of time you spent on police bail caused you significant distress and inevitably prolonged the period of time when you remained in the public eye as someone who was still suspected of involvement in an appalling crime."
Gargan described the exoneration as "an unusual step to take" but explained "these were exceptional circumstances".
Although Gargan was not at the force at the time of Yeates's murder – he replaced Colin Port in March this year – he stood by the police decision to arrest and interview Jefferies.
"It was a complex investigation, carried out under the most intense public scrutiny and the investigating officer had to pursue every reasonable line of enquiry," he said.
Jefferies, who won libel damages from eight newspapers after more than 40 articles made false allegations against him, said the police apology "goes a long way". He told the BBC: "It provides an important conclusion to the whole aftermath of what I had to go through following my arrest."
Vincent Tabak, a Dutch national who lived next door to Yeates in Bristol, was jailed for life in October 2011 for her murder. It was revealed during the trial that he had phoned police and made the false claims against Jefferies. ·