Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Jefferies: Police leaked statement

Christopher Jefferies has given evidence to the Leveson inquiry for a second time

Christopher Jefferies has told the Leveson Inquiry he believes police gave reporters information about a witness statement he made following the disappearance of his tenant Joanna Yeates.

The retired teacher, wrongly arrested over the architect's murder, said details about what he said in a second statement to police later appeared in newspaper reports - albeit with some details incorrectly reported.

Mr Jefferies said he thinks police also passed on their concerns about him to reporters, leading to "feverish" interest in him on December 29, 2010, the day before his arrest.

He told the inquiry into press standards: "Until then I had not been the subject of any particular media attention but that suddenly changed. A Sky news team were extremely anxious to talk to me. A large number of reporters appeared at the address where I lived. They had somehow got to hear about the content of that second witness statement - they had got hold of a very garbled edition of it and they were extremely anxious to know why I believed I had seen Joanna Yeates leaving the premises on December 17 in the company of one or more other people."

His statement, he told the inquiry, had said no such thing. Instead, when he spoke to police on December 22 he told them he heard two or three people leaving the block of flats where he lived in Bristol on the night Ms Yeates went missing. He said he had heard voices, but could not say whether one had been a woman's voice or not.

His statement to the Leveson Inquiry said: "The police have since confirmed to me that the fact that I gave a supplementary statement raised their suspicions in relation to me. On the basis of what ensued, I believe it is likely that the police passed these suspicions on to the media."

Giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Jefferies added: "It is worth emphasising that I had told no more than three neighbours about that second statement to the police and they all absolutely assured me that they were not the source of the information that then appeared in the media."

Avon and Somerset Police deny there was any leak to the Press, the inquiry was told. It was the second time Mr Jefferies had appeared before the inquiry, having spoken in November of the media "witch-hunt" he endured as a result of his arrest.

Mr Jefferies told the inquiry he was informed by Avon and Somerset Police that his name was "inadvertently" disclosed to journalists following his arrest. He added in his statement that the information released by the force at the time could have led reporters to the assumption that he was the suspect being held by police.

He said: "Whilst it would be possible to guess the identity of the '65-year-old man' arrested at 'an address in Canynge Road', I do not believe that the Press would have been bold enough to launch into fullscale accusations about me as they did, built around the fact that I had been arrested, had they a) not had confirmation that it was me that had been arrested from the police and/or b) a steer from the police that they believed I was 'their man'."

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