One morning in August 1986, residents of sleepy Essex village Tolleshunt D’Arcy were woken up by police warning them to stay inside.
Five family members had been slain in cold blood by Jeremy Bamber at a nearby farmhouse. He had shot them with his father’s rifle, then made it look like his sister had done it.
The White House Farm murders were one of the most brutal in UK history.
Jeremy, then 24, savagely murdered his adoptive parents, Nevill and June Bamber, his adopted sister Sheila Caffell and her six-year-old twin sons Daniel and Nicholas – with his father’s gun.
The murders are now the focus of an ITV drama, White House Farm – which will air in 2019 – starring Freddie Fox as Jeremy and Prince Harry’s former girlfriend Cressida Bonas as his doomed adoptive sister Sheila – a schizophrenic model nicknamed ‘Bambi’.
Jeremy Bamber pictured in 2016
Jeremy was jailed for 25 years but still maintains his innocence – and had appealed his conviction several times.
Here Sun Online takes a look at the real story behind the crimes that shocked the nation and remain controversial 33 years on.
Shot eight times in the head: a family bloodbath
On 6th August 1986, police received a call from a distressed Jeremy, then aged 24.
He said he’d received a phone call from his dad Nevill about his adopted sister Sheila going ‘berserk’ with a gun – and that the line had gone dead in the middle of the call.
Jeremy – who had been adopted by the family as a baby – met officers at the home, saying his sister was a “nutter” who knew how to use guns.
Police were confronted by a massacre. First, they discovered the body of Nevill, 61, next to the AGA – he had been shot eight times and had head injuries.
Jeremy framed sister Sheila for the killings
On the upstairs landing lay his wife June – she’d been shot between her eyes.
Sheila lay in the bedroom with two bullet wounds to the throat and a rifle across her body – leading the police officers to initially believe she’d killed her family then herself.
Her six-year-old twins Daniel and Nicholas were in the next room, both having been shot several times in the head.
Officers thought they knew the truth – Sheila, in a psychotic episode, had killed her family then herself.
Her mental health struggles were well-documented in the press over the following weeks – a model, whose marriage to husband Colin had broken down, she’d received treatment for paranoid schizophrenia and anorexia.
Neville and June were shot in their home by Jeremy Bamber
As well as taking anti-psychotic medicine, she was snorting cocaine – racking up drug debts of £40,000 – and sleeping with older men.
Her relationship with her adoptive parents had been strained. It seemed logical she was the killer.
A web of lies
But it wasn’t long before cracks started to appear in their theories.
Detectives started to wonder if a slim woman who was fatigued from anti-psychotics could really overpower and kill her 6 foot 4 well-built father.
Then, at the funeral, Jeremy’s extended family said he’d cracked “smutty” jokes and gave a “chilling, big grin.”
He also acted over-the-top: falling on his knees and howling in front of the TV microphones.
The bodies of Sheila and her six-year-old twins were found upstairs
Soon after, Jeremy split with his girlfriend Julie Mugford and new evidence came to light.
Julie told the police he’d rung her on the night of the murders to say “it’s tonight or never” and that he’d been plotting to kill his family for 18 months.
Jeremy was arrested on 8 September, denying everything and accusing his ex-girlfriend of being angry about their breakup.
‘Evil beyond belief’
Privately-educated Jeremy was no stranger to criminal activity – a few weeks before the murders he robbed the family business, making it look like an inside job.
And when travelling around Australia and New Zealand, he stole from a jewellery shop. He also boasted about smuggling heroin.
His extended family, who inherited the family fortune, said Jeremy often ‘provoked’ his parents – starting arguments and even hiding a bag of live rats in his father’s secretary’s car.
There had been tension leading up to the killings: Nevill told various people, including his secretary, that he foresaw a ‘shooting accident’.
Police became more and more suspicious.
The rifle’s silencer was found in a cupboard on the farm by Jeremy’s cousins and it was noted that Sheila wouldn’t have been able to place it there after shooting herself.
Sheila’s feet were also clean – if she’d gone on a rampage they would have been blood-stained. Photos of Jeremy’s feet showed blood on them.
The bedroom phone was found plugged into the kitchen socket – something experts say Sheila would have been unlikely to have done during a psychotic episode.
Jeremy was finally charged with the murder of all his family members a month later.
Described by his trial judge as ‘evil beyond belief’, Jeremy was found guilty by the jury on a ratio of 10-2 – and sentenced to 25 years – extending to a whole life order in 1994.
He has been in HM Prison Wakefield ever since.
Bamber’s loyal supporters
White House Farm – the Essex home where the killings happened
But despite the evidence, many of Jeremy’s supporters believe he is innocent – and that Shelia committed the gruesome mass murder.
They say that the blood on his feet was that of a rabbit’s – and that the police destroyed evidence.
Bob Woffinden, an expert in miscarriages of justice, previously believed Sheila was the killer.
However, he changed his mind in 2011, when researching the theory about the house phone.
After reading numerous police reports, his theory is that on the evening of the murders, the first thing Jeremy did was to take the kitchen phone off the hook, disabling every phone in the house.
Bob believed Jeremy was wearing a wetsuit to avoid getting his clothes covered with bloodstains, and shot the children with his father’s rifle first.
But when his father tried to call the police from the bedside phone, he wouldn’t have been able to.
Jeremy then shot Nevill before battering him to death with the rifle butt. He then shot his mother and sister.
Bob says Jeremy needed to direct one bullet at a precise angle to Sheila’s throat to make it look like a suicide. But the first didn’t kill her, so he shot her again.
This was a mistake – if it was suicide she couldn’t have shot herself twice.
After showering in the wetsuit – which he later disposed of – he got dressed before plugging the bedroom phone into the kitchen socket.
If Sheila had killed her family and herself, she couldn’t have rearranged the phones.
This is the final piece of evidence in the case for Jeremy’s guilt, and Bob’s theory has been accepted by many experts.
However, Jeremy’s supporters, who include MPs and campaigner Peter Tatchell, say the case is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history – and the website calling for his release has a forum where hundreds of people attempt to prove his innocence.
But with his last appeal bid being rejected six years ago, Jeremy seems destined to spend the rest of his life in prison.