Jefferies calls for inquiry over 'police leaks' to reporters

Joanna Yeates’s former landlord Chris Jefferies has accused police of leaking information about him to journalists following his arrest on suspicion of her murder.

Retired school teacher Christopher Jefferies made the accusation in a statement released by his solicitor and has called for an independent inquiry.

The statement, released by law firm the Stokoe Partnership, said: “It has become apparent that evidence put before the Leveson Inquiry confirms our earliest concerns about the confidentially with which the arrest and detention of our client was dealt with by those investigating the murder of Joanna Yeates.

“As a result of our attendance at the police station and of our reviewing of the material in the media, it became apparent that information had been deliberately leaked by as yet unidentified individuals in flagrant breach of their duty.

“Our client strongly believes this to be the case, as there was information within the public domain which was only known to those privy to the investigation material.

“Our client is of the view that this information had been leaked and we share that view.

“There needs to be an independent inquiry into this potentially criminal conduct on the part of officers from Avon and Somerset Police, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service.

“As regards any legal action against Avon and Somerset Police for wrongful arrest, this is a matter which remains under review.”

Jefferies was responding to evidence – disputed by Avon and Somerset Police – that Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace gave the Leveson Inquiry into media standards last week.

Wallace apologised to Jefferies and told the inquiry that his judgment was affected by off-the-record briefings from the force in which they appeared confident that Mr Jefferies “was their man”.

In his statement, which was read to the inquiry, Wallace said: “In the article of December 31, we reported that a source close to the police investigation said that it was believed Jo’s murderer had tried to conceal her body.

“This information, to the best of my knowledge, came from one of the off-the-record briefings referred to above.

“The police also give more general guidance to the press. When Mr Jefferies was arrested on December 30, the content desk informed me that off the record the police were saying that they were confident Mr Jefferies was their man.”

Police to challenge Wallace’s evidence

Avon and Somerset Chief constable Colin Port denied the claims made by Wallace and said the force was “actively challenging” his comments.

Port said in a statement: “I now have a copy of the letter sent by these solicitors direct to the media 12 months after the event, and which has not been directed to Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

“I am surprised by the contents of the letter which appear to be based on the opinions expressed by Richard Wallace, editor of the Mirror, when he gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry last week, and which we are actively challenging.”

Last year efferies accepted a libel payout from eight national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, over false allegations they made against him following the murder of his tenant.

He had previously told the Leveson Inquiry that the national press “shamelessly vilified” him.

As well as paying damages to the former Clifton College teacher, the publishers of the Mirror and the Sun were fined GBP50,000 and GBP18,000, plus legal costs after having been found to have committed contempt of court with stories they published following Mr Jefferies’ arrest on suspicion of murdering landscape architect Miss Yeates, 25.

Jefferies, who owned Miss Yeates’ flat at 44 Canynge Road, Bristol, was questioned by detectives for two days before being released.

He was later declared to be innocent. It emerged during the trial of Miss Yeates’ killer, Vincent Tabak, who was jailed for life in October, that Tabak had implicated Jefferies by phoning the police and making false claims.

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7336 5327 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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