It IS Joanna: Police satisfied woman's body found on snowy verge is missing landscape architect
By MAIL ON SUNDAY REPORTER
Last updated at 3:24 PM on 26th December 2010
Results of the post mortem delayed because of the body's 'frozen condition'
Architect's devastated family told the news by detectives
Anguished boyfriend left in 'absolute pieces' by 25-year-old's death
Police are 'satisfied' a body found yesterday is missing architect Joanna Yeates.
They said at this stage they are treating the death as suspicious, but are waiting on the results of a post mortem examination. The discovery was made at 9am yesterday by a couple walking their dogs in the Failand area of North Somerset. An Avon and Somerset police spokesman said: 'We are satisfied the body is Joanna Yeates, but this is pending the results of a post mortem which is not expected for at least 24 hours due to the nature of how she was found in such extreme conditions.'
Police said the formal identification procedure is yet to be completed, but they have spoken to the 25-year-old's family and explained the situation.
Miss Yeates' father said yesterday he 'would be relieved' if the body was his daughter so they would have the opportunity to say goodbye.
David Yeates said: 'Of course we don't know for sure that it's her but we assume that it is.
'Nobody else has been reported missing and it's the body of a young girl close to where Jo disappeared. It hasn't been a Christmas for us. I don't know what it's been. It's been surreal, totally unreal. We're just waiting now for the police to tell us what we suspect. 'In truth we feel like we hope ... we would be relieved if it was herm' he told the Sunday Telegraph. 'We don't want to go to our graves wondering where she is and not being given the chance to say goodbye to her. 'We assume that she's dead so we'd like to say goodbye ... our lives have gone.'
The body was found on a snow-covered verge on a country lane on Christmas morning three miles from where Miss Yeates lived with her boyfriend, Greg Reardon. The scene in Longwood Lane, close to Bristol and Clifton Golf Club, was sealed off for forensic examination. The Avon Fire Service helped police remove the body from the scene, which was clothed and covered in snow, in order to preserve the site for a thorough forensic examination. Police are expected to continue their fingertip search in the Longwood Lane area throughout today.
A post mortem examination has been taking place in Bristol today, but due to the extreme freezing conditions in which Miss Yeates body was found, results are not expected until tomorrow at the earliest. Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford said: 'Our heartfelt condolences go out to Joanna's family for their loss. 'We have not stopped working hard throughout the Christmas period to find their daughter after she was reported missing.
Now we will work just as hard to discover exactly what happened to her and how she came to be in Longwood Lane on Christmas morning. 'Until the post mortem examination is able to firmly establish how Joanna died, we are keeping an open mind about the cause of her death. 'However, I would appeal to anyone with any information whatsoever that can help this investigation to please come forward and help us provide Joanna's parents with the answers they so desperately want and need.'
The last known sighting of Miss Yeates, known to her friends as Jo, was on CCTV as she bought a pizza at a branch of Tesco Express in the Clifton area of Bristol on the evening of December 17. The university graduate, who worked as a landscape architect for BDP, was making her way home from the Ram pub in Park Street at about 8pm after a night out with work colleagues.
On her way home she rang her best friend, Rebecca Scott, to arrange to meet on Christmas Eve. Her boyfriend, Mr Reardon, 27, reported her missing on Sunday night after returning home to their flat in Canynge Road, Clifton, from a weekend away in Sheffield visiting family. Friends launched a campaign to find her by putting up posters across Bristol and setting up a website and a page on Facebook and using Twitter. Officers released footage of her buying the pizza in Tesco, which has become a key part of the investigation. There was no trace of the pizza, the wrapping or the box in her home - despite the fact that the receipt, the coat she was wearing, and her mobile phone and keys were inside.
Police are now trying to determine whether her body was transported across the river or whether she walked across the bridge of her own accord. Plus they're examining footage from 32 CCTV cameras to trace her final journey.
Landscape architect Joanna Yeates, who was found dead on a grass verge on Christmas Day, was strangled, police revealed today. Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones said she had died as a result of 'compression of the neck'. He said he believed Miss Yeates' body had been dumped in Longwood Lane, Failand, several days earlier.
Det Chief Insp Jones said a number of lines of inquiry were being pursued, including the possibility that there was a sexual motive behind her killing or that the graduate knew her attacker. He added that the 25-year-old's boyfriend Greg Reardon was being treated as a witness and not a suspect.
His laptop and mobile telephone have been examined by detectives but officers have stressed that this was a routine procedure in such inquiries.
Police are also keeping an 'open mind' over whether Miss Yeates had been held captive or had been killed where she was found.
Det Chief Insp Jones said: 'The post-mortem took longer than anticipated because of the freezing conditions. 'The pathologist showed the cause of death was compression of the neck - in other words, strangulation. 'We believe Joanna's body had been there for several days before being discovered on Christmas morning.
We want to hear from anyone who saw anything in the Failand area, particularly between December 17 and December 19.' Detectives are today continuing a forensic examination of the murder victim's home, as police attempt to identify any signs of a struggle.
Det Chief Insp Jones appealed for any information about her murder, adding: 'I have met with her parents to tell them of the latest developments and offer my heartfelt condolences to them. 'Somebody out there does know what happened to Joanna. Somebody out there holds that vital piece of information Jo's family need and want. 'What we have to do next is to try and find out why she was killed and who was responsible.
'However small or insignificant you think your information might be, please come forward and speak to us. 'Please don't assume we may already have been told the information that you have. 'We would much rather be told the same piece of information several times over than not be told it at all.'
The landlord of murdered architect Jo Yeates was today arrested on suspicion of her murder. Bachelor Chris Jefferies, 65, was taken into custody just after 7am this morning - hours after he claimed he had watched as three people left Jo’s flat on the night she vanished.
A statement from Avon and Somerset police said: ‘Just after 07.00hrs this morning, police attended an address in Canynge Road and arrested a 65-year-old man on suspicion of murder. ‘He has been taken into custody at a police station within the Avon and Somerset force area and detained for questioning. ‘Detectives investigating Joanna’s murder are continuing to carry out forensic examinations, and are also continuing to appeal for anyone with any information that can help the enquiry to call the Operation Braid incident room on 0845 456 7000 or the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.’
Mr Jefferies, a former teacher at the nearby public school Clifton College, lives directly above the basement flat he rented to Miss Yeates. The body of the 25-year-old, who had been strangled, was found by dog walkers on Christmas morning, three miles from her £200,000 flat in the upmarket area of Clifton, Bristol. She was last seen by friends on December 17 and was reported missing two days later by her live-in boyfriend Greg Reardon when he returned from a weekend with relatives.
Yesterday, Mr Jefferies apparently told police how he saw a trio leaving Miss Yeates’ flat on Friday, December 17. Wearing a long coat with fur collar and carrying a Waterstone’s shopping bag, he told reporters: 'Everything I am aware of I have told the police and I really don’t want to talk about it.'
By Ben Leach and Michael Howie 5:04PM GMT 02 Jan 2011
Speaking outside the property in Canynge Road, Chief Superintendent Jon Stratford said: "I can understand why the public in the local and wider Bristol area have concerns for their safety at the current time. Whoever killed Joanna remains at large. "However, I want to reassure the public that at this time there's no specific intelligence or information to suggest an increased threat to their safety."
But he advised women not to walk home after dark and householders to ensure their homes were secure and to take care when answering the door to strangers. Increased police patrols remain in the area to reassure the public, he added. He also thanked the public for their help with the investigation so far.
"We have been overwhelmed by the response from the public, the number of calls and messages we have had, bringing information and intelligence to our notice," he said. And he reiterated a plea to anyone who thinks they may have information that could lead detectives to the culprit to contact police.
"Jo's killer is still out there somewhere and we will find them and bring them to justice. We know Jo was murdered. At the the moment we don't know who killed her but we are determined to find out," he added.
Miss Yeates was last sighted on Dec 17 and her body found on Christmas Day, three miles from her home in Clifton, by a couple out walking their dogs. Mr Reardon reported her missing on Dec 19 on returning to their flat after a few days away. Police investigating her death released Miss Yeates's landlord Christopher Jefferies from custody at just before 10pm on Saturday. Before the release he had been due to spend a third night in police cells. Detectives had until 7am on Monday to charge or release him.
Neighbours of Miss Yeates have made several reports of "suspicious" men seen in the street in recent weeks. One resident said a Neighbourhood Watch alert was issued two months ago about a "drug-crazed man" seen staring through a woman’s window.
Another woman reported "two scary-looking Eastern European men" on Canynge Road on Dec 16, the day before Miss Yeates disappeared.
Meanwhile, officers have taken DNA samples from men living close to Miss Yeates’s flat.
The body of Joanna Yeates was found on Christmas Day after she had been missing for eight days. Here are some of the unanswered questions surrounding the murder inquiry.
Why is there no sign of forced entry at Miss Yeates’s flat?
One theory is that Miss Yeates knew her killer and that is why there was no evidence of a break in at her home. Detectives need to establish whether her killer had a key to the property or she let them in voluntarily. Another possibility is that she could have been followed home by someone who burst into the property as she let herself in.
What happened to the pizza?
After leaving the Bristol Ram pub at around 8pm on Friday 17 December, Miss Yeates stopped at a Tesco Supermarket where she bought a mozzarella and tomato pizza. Detectives searching her flat have found a receipt for the item but no trace of the pizza itself or its packaging. Police need to know if she ate the pizza alone or with someone else and if so what happened to the box and packaging. Was it removed by her killer and if so why?
When was Miss Yeates killed?
Detectives have not yet established an exact time of death leaving the possibility that she was held captive before being murdered. She was not reported missing until the evening of Sunday 19 December when her boyfriend, Greg Reardon, returned home from a weekend in Sheffield.
Why was the body not better hidden after being dumped?
Miss Yeates’ body was found by dog walkers on Christmas morning dumped on a verge at the side of Longwood Lane in Failand around three miles from Clifton in Bristol. Although covered by snow, the body had not been well concealed and was underneath a three foot wall bordering Dunford Quarry. Detectives are trying to establish if the killer had been attempting to throw the body into the deep quarry but was unable to lift her or was disturbed by a passing motorist. They have appealed for anyone in the area between December 17 and Christmas Day to come forward.
Was the body stored somewhere before being dumped?
Police believe Miss Yeates was killed sometime over the weekend she went missing, but her body was not discovered until a week later. Detectives are attempting to establish if the killer hid her body before taking the opportunity to dump her in the days before Christmas. Two witnesses claim to have seen a car driver acting suspiciously in the area around the time in question.
Was Joanna seen with other people at her flat before she disappeared?
Miss Yeates’s landlord Chris Jefferies allegedly told neighbours he had seen two people with her outside her flat on the evening of December 17. He later refused to confirm the sighting and was later arrested on suspicion of her murder. But if true the sighting would be a crucial breakthrough. Miss Yeates’s coat was in the flat when she disappeared suggesting if she left of her own accord she did not intend to go far.
Was the killer in the flat when Joanna returned home?
One theory being explored by police is that Miss Yeates’ killer was already in her flat when she returned home and disturbed them. However with no obvious sign of forced entry it remains a mystery how any intruder could have gained entry. The blue front door from the entrance to the property has been taken away for careful DNA analysis.
Did the killer know that she was going to be home alone?
Her boyfriend Greg Reardon was away over the weekend in question visiting a relative in Sheffield. One theory is that the killer knew Miss Yeates was going to be home alone when he struck and therefore it was unlikely she would be reported missing for at least two days.