As two tabloid newspapers go on trial today for contempt of court, we revisit some of the smear and innuendo levelled at the Bristol schoolteacher Chris Jefferies before he was released from bail without charge, police announcing that he was no longer a suspect in the Jo Yeates murder case. Another man, Vincent Tabak, is currently awaiting trial after being prosecuted for the killing.
The Contempt of Court Act restricts publication of material which would create a “substantial risk of serious prejudice” to a trial. In Jefferies’ case, Attorney General Dominic Grieve felt that articles in the Daily Mirror and The Sun would have posed a “substantial risk of serious prejudice”, rendering a fair trial impossible.
“Chris Jefferies’ favourite poem was about killing wife” [on Jefferies admiring Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol]
A strict authoritarian known as “blue hair” or “comb-over” for his unusual hairstyle, his eccentric manner and long-term bachelor status sparked unfounded school gossip that he was gay. – 31 December
“He was always odd, turning pink at the least provocation. And I remember he liked to wear a school scarf, which even in 1975 we thought rather cheesy.” – 31 December
“Mr Jefferies was also famous for his utter dislike of sports. At boarding schools everyone has to chip in and teachers would often referee rugby or football matches, but not him. “He made it perfectly clear from the start that that was not his scene.” – 31 December
The woman, who asked not to be named, added: “He came in recently and wanted to buy a black apron with the words ‘little black apron’ written on it. “He was most insistent we get it.” “When the apron didn’t come in for a time you could tell he was bothered.” – 31 December
Recalling “nosey neighbour” Mr Jefferies yesterday, the former male tenant, 39, said: “My wife wasn’t keen on him at all and he made her feel uncomfortable. “He always seemed to be hanging about. If we left the flat he was always outside … On several occasions he even entered our flat unannounced. – 31 December
“He acted surprised and left when my wife confronted him. It was intrusive, he looks very strange as well, so it did make my wife feel uncomfortable.” – 31 December
Former students claimed yesterday that the blue-rinse, long-haired bachelor, who police arrested yesterday, used to make sleazy comments and invite them to his home. One recalled: “He was very flamboyant. We were convinced he was gay. “You didn’t want him to come near you.” – 31 December
Mr Jefferies was also famous for his utter dislike of sports. At boarding schools, teachers often referee rugby or football matches – but not him. – 31 December
“He was a stickler for discipline and very traditional. He used to get very angry and shout and throw books and pens across the room. He kept repeating words in an odd way.” – 31 December
The former student said eccentric English teacher Jefferies made them watch films about Nazi death camps and scared some children with his macabre fascination. He added: “Jefferies just wanted to show us death. He was obsessed with it.” – 1 January
Neighbours have speculated that Jefferies was gay. But the woman, who has now left Bristol, said: “I thought he was bisexual. I felt he liked to control women and he was dominant towards them. If he’d had any type of relationship it would have been with a man.” – 1 January
He has these eyes where there seems to be no colour, and his expression was so blank ? there was nothing there. I felt scared, but never threatened enough to go to police. “Seeing him on TV was a shock. It brought it all back.” – 1 January
Yesterday, as forensics officers continued to comb the Victorian building where Jefferies lives, a couple told how they nicknamed him “Hannibal Lecter” while living in one of his basement flats. – 1 January
While the Mirror also reported that Jefferies was “active in local Lib Dem circles”, agreeing with Nick is not a criminal offence in the UK.