Joanna Yeates murder police given more time to quiz landlord

Published Friday, 31 December 2010
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Officers granted another 12 hours to questions Chris Jefferies who lived above flat of woman found dead on Christmas Day

Police have been granted extra time to question Joanna Yeates's landlord, who is being held on suspicion of her murder.

Officers will be able to quiz the retired public school teacher Chris Jefferies until this evening, when they have the option of applying for a further extension.

The 65-year-old was arrested yesterday at his home above the flat he rented to Yeates, 25, and her boyfriend, Greg Reardon, 27, in Clifton, Bristol.

His arrest came 24 hours after reports emerged that he told neighbours he had seen three people leave the landscape architect's flat in Canynge Road on the night she vanished. It is understood police had taken an interest in Jefferies before that development.

The 12-hour extension was granted by a senior police officer late last night. If police want to hold Jefferies for any longer they will have to ask a magistrate to grant another extension.

Meanwhile, the forensic examination of the building where Jefferies lives is continuing. A lone female forensics officer was first on the scene, carrying brown evidence bags into Yeates' flat.

Among the questions police will want to ask Jefferies is whether he knew Reardon was away on the weekend Yeates went missing. One neighbour has claimed Jefferies helped Reardon start his car before he left to visit relatives in Sheffield on the day Yeates vanished.

Jefferies is a community stalwart who played a prominent role in a local neighbourhood watch group and helped the Liberal Democrats during the election. He is a member of the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society (CHIS), which campaigns to conserve buildings in the area.

He taught English at Clifton college, just metres from his flat, from the early 1970s until he took early retirement in 2001. At the college he was known as a flamboyant teacher who was fond of Christina Rossetti's poetry and once sported a blue rinse.

Ray Lowman, who lives in a flat opposite the building where Jefferies and Yeates lived, said: "He is basically a pillar of society. One of the well-known familiar locals."

Councillor Trevor Blythe, who represents Clifton ward for the Lib Dems on Bristol city council, said: "We were absolutely flabbergasted when we heard he'd been arrested."

Clifton college head, Mark Moore, said Jefferies had at one time been the school's head of English and there were no disciplinary issues recorded against him.

"There was nothing in his record at all and he took early retirement, which he is perfectly entitled to do," Moore said.

Yesterday, police took two cars – a silver Chrysler Neon parked on the street and a grey Volvo S40 that was on Jefferies' drive – for examination.

Yeates was last seen on 17 December and her snow-covered body was found on Christmas morning by a couple walking their dogs in Longwood Lane in Failand, North Somerset, three miles from her flat. She had been strangled.

There have been some suggestions in the media that the body could have been hidden not far from her flat for some days before being left at the roadside. The police believe it is more likely the body was left there on the weekend Yeates disappeared because it was covered in snow – heavy snow fell in Bristol that weekend.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2010
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