The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MR PHILIP ANDREW JONES (sworn).

  • Your full name, please, Mr Jones?

  • I'm going to ask you to confirm your witness statement. You've signed and dated it 28 February of this year. Is this your true evidence to the Inquiry?

  • You are currently a detective chief inspector with the Avon and Somerset constabulary. You've worked in the service for 23 years. You were the senior investigating officer as from 27 December 2010 in relation to the Joanna Yeates investigation; is that right?

  • I'm going to ask you some specific questions, please, about that investigation. First of all, paragraph 9 of your statement at the bottom of page 10578. This is your general philosophy in relation to the media. You regard the media as an additional investigative tool providing a means of communication with the public to appeal for information, witnesses, aid elimination and provide reassurance. How successful is that mode of communication? Does it, in other words, achieve positive results in terms of identifying offenders in your experience?

  • I think it does, sir. It certainly formed one of the -- certainly formed part of my media strategy in the Joanna Yeates investigation, and I think a good example of the success of it is that in that particular investigation we received around 3,000 telephone calls, messages and emails from members of the public. On a more local scale, then yes, it does provide a source of not only key information, witnesses, but also it can assist in -- aid in elimination in terms of identifying vehicles and CCTV, for example.

  • It's not just important, is it, Mr Jones? It's absolutely critical that the public understand that crime is detected by the public coming forward with information. It's a terrible mistake to think that crime can be detected entirely isolated from assistance provided by witnesses. It just can't be done other than in television programmes. Is that fair?

  • Absolutely. Absolutely, sir. I think sometimes there's a perception that we investigate and solve all our crimes on forensic evidence alone, and it's actually witnesses and the general public that help us solve crime, and without them we couldn't operate in the criminal justice system and bring offenders to justice. So they are vital.

  • You mentioned the strategy in relation to the Joanna Yeates investigation. We see this, I think, under your tab 19, our page 11438.

  • You refer to this in your statement. We can see the date of the strategy, 13 January 2011, so presumably it superseded an earlier strategy, did it?

  • Yes. In essence, sir, this was, if you like, documenting the investigative media strategy. It had been implemented at the very early stages when this was a missing person investigation, which was back on 20, 21 December 2010. So it was just a combination of -- that investigative media strategy had been implemented; it was just a question of obviously documenting it within the actual policy book itself and having a record of that.

  • Can I ask you just a couple of points upon the strategy. You see under item 5:

    "To adopt a proportionate approach to ongoing media speculation and its potential impact on the investigation."

    What does that mean in more detail, Mr Jones? What do you mean by a proportionate approach?

  • Well, I think it's a balanced approach. In any investigation, there will be a degree of media speculation and sometimes you can respond to that appropriately. I think in this particular case, in the Joanna Yeates investigation, there was so much speculation from the media -- and I would describe it as an almost scattergun approach, where evidently they were trying to, I believe, identify lines of inquiry, and therefore our proportionate response to that was to give a response that either we would not confirm or deny that was a line of inquiry which we were pursuing.

  • Under the heading "Delivering the strategy", you refer to briefings. Were you intending to refer only to on-the-record briefings?

  • Absolutely, sir, yes.

  • Were there, to your knowledge, any off-the-record briefings to journalists?

  • Had there been, (a) who would have conducted them and (b) would you know about it?

  • Well, I don't believe there were any off-the-record briefings. It certainly wasn't myself and I don't know who would have conducted those off-the-record briefings. Had there been any intention to do that, then I would have expected somebody would have told me, yes. But that wasn't the case.

  • So looking at this logically, of course, you can't prove a negative. What you can say, in the light of your last answer, is that any off-the-record briefing -- and you deny that any such occurred -- would have been unauthorised?

  • You do say in the last sentence of paragraph 16 that no individual briefings were given until after the trial.

  • We had requests before the trial for pre-trial briefings from the media. I discussed it with my corporate communications department and my decision was that we weren't going to hold any pre-trial briefings. There were a number of reasons for that decision. I think the experience of the investigation itself had left a lasting impression on me in terms of the media, but I think more importantly there were certain aspects in that particular case which were subject of bad character applications during the trial, which -- involving some material, adult pornography material on the defendant's computer which I didn't want to release to the media prior to the trial because I couldn't take the risk of any of that leaking into the public domain. It would clearly be prejudicial, which was proved in court because the bad character applications weren't successful. There was a court order in relation to those during the trial, but that court order was lifted upon verdict and I think the reaction from the media in terms of, firstly, the verdict, then obviously moving onto that aspect of the investigation, was quite clear. So it was a very interesting, newsworthy item and I felt that it was important that we held back on that.

    So of course after the trial, then that afforded us the opportunity of having, you know, those meetings or briefings.

  • It's always a problem, isn't it, because the press will want the full story after the verdict, and as I understand it, are perfectly prepared to prepare a story and bin it if the verdict does not go that particular way, and that's understood. But the problem is the extent to which you allow information to be known prior to verdict which might impact on a jury during the course of the case if it enters the public domain.

  • And that's the point you're making --

  • -- about the pornographic material.

  • Yes. I felt, during the investigation, we had -- you know, I had a real grip around the disclosure of information. We were really, really tight around that, as best we possibly could, and of course my concern was I didn't want that to impact -- any, you know, release of information impact upon the trial itself and ultimately be prejudicial.

  • The point you might make is the fact that some particularly explosive and prejudicial information did not leak from your force -- and you can prove that conclusively -- may be an indication that other bits of information didn't leak either.

  • It wouldn't necessarily follow, but it's an indication. Can I ask you, please, about the second sentence of paragraph 18. You explain it was of paramount importance for you and the investigation team to maintain the integrity of the investigation so you could achieve justice. How did you go about achieving that as best you could, Mr Jones?

  • Sorry, with regard to the integrity?

  • Just reiterating, really, with staff during briefings around confidentiality. We did have some concerns early on, but we ensured that staff were aware of confidentiality and I think also, as the investigation progressed, when there was sensitive information, we ensured that it was kept to a very small number of people within the investigation, so it wasn't widely and publicly known within the investigation itself, which I felt was really important.

  • Can I ask you about the last sentence of paragraph 18 where you say:

    "In some cases, we were aware that members of the public we were speaking to had also been contacted by journalists either prior to or after our visit."

    So was the source of that awareness what you were told by members of the public?

  • Yes. It -- there were -- for example, in Canynge Road itself, we were aware that there were residents that we would visit as part of our enquiries who had already been visited by journalists or they were attending the address when we were. I think a really good example of this was Rebecca Scott, who was Joanna Yeates' best friend. She received -- she contacted us because she had received over 160 telephone calls and text messages from the media, and in fact the media were camped outside her home address and Hampshire Police had intervened because they were threatening to arrest some of the media for harassment.

    So that gives you an -- you know, a good indication of some of the targeting that was going on by the media in terms of -- in terms of witnesses and generally members of the public.

  • Did you receive information that any members of the public were paid by journalists for information they gave?

  • There was an indication that I'm aware of that there were some -- certainly some residents in Canynge Road that may have received money from the media.

  • When you say "indication", is there any evidence of that? I ask because there's clear material in the press code of ethics about paying witnesses, and it's a matter which I personally have been involved in for more years than I care to think about. Is there any evidence of that?

  • Perhaps I could clarify that, sir. Yes, there was evidence, yes. But what I will say is not evidence -- they were not witnesses in the trial.

  • But who was to know that?

  • Are you referring to members of the public who lived near by?

  • Okay. In paragraph 20 of your statement, Mr Jones, bottom of page 10581, you deal with the steps you took when Mr Jefferies was arrested, which was on 30 December.

  • As far as you were aware, were those steps successful, in the sense that was there evidence that journalists knew that you were arresting him at that time?

  • It was successful. If I can kind of explain the layout at Canynge Road. There were permanently at least four television crews with satellite vans parked outside 44 Canynge Road, which was the address where Ms Yeates lived. So they were there 24 hours a day.

    When I took the decision to arrest Mr Jefferies, clearly one of my primary concerns was that we made that arrest without the media being aware of our presence and doing so. There was some planning and preparation that went into that, and I believe that we were successful in arresting him and actually conveying him away from his home address to a police station.

    Whilst he remained in custody, there was an application for a time extension with a warrant of further detention at the magistrate's court in Bristol. We managed to convey him from the police station to the magistrate's court, again without the reporters that were waiting outside the court to actually see him.

    Conversely, we returned him to the police station and then, when we subsequently released him on bail, we actually -- he left the police station with a solicitor and we actually delayed informing the media an hour after he'd left that we had released a person on bail to enable Mr Jefferies to leave the police station and basically be undetected in doing so. So that was successful, yes.

  • In paragraph 21, you deal with your concerns about possible leaks and the involvement of the Professional Standards Department. The leaks related to what appeared in the Sun, I think, on 4 January, relating to certain items of clothing, and then the article on 17 January, again in the Sun, relating to the two Ikea deliver drivers. Is that, broadly speaking, right?

  • No, that's not right.

  • It came about because of the Daily Mail on the -- when I was notified of -- the low copy DNA Daily Mail possible story which we were notified of.

  • That's paragraph 24 of your statement, isn't it?

  • That's correct, sir, yes. That was what instigated that. That was on 2 January. On 4 January I made a report to our Professional Standards Department, because I wanted to -- you know, I wanted it to be proactively and robustly investigated. It did cause me concern.

  • To be clear about this, on 2 January, corporate communications department contacted you because they had received an enquiry from the Daily Mail regarding low copy DNA allegedly having been found on Joanna Yeates' body; is that right?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • So that immediately rang warning bells in your mind that this might be a leak; is that right?

  • That's right, sir, yes.

  • And then you took appropriate steps. Can we be clear about the Daily Mail's story? Was there low copy DNA found on her body?

  • So the enquiry was, as it were, not a piece of wild speculation; it was based on fact, wasn't it?

  • Yes, sir. I mean, my reaction when I was told -- and I said in my statement it was a feeling of deflation that that information was known outside of the investigation.

  • Who knew on or before 2 January 2011 that low copy DNA had been found on her body?

  • Precisely within the investigation, I can't recollect, but there would have been other agencies involved in the actual forensic process that would have been aware also.

  • Right. So does it follow that the information which the Daily Mail received either came from your team or it came from one of the other agencies? Logically, that must be right?

  • It could have done, yes.

  • When you refer to "other agencies", you presumably are referring to the scientific testing agencies who would be involved in analysing the DNA?

  • But the upshot is that the investigation has not come to fruition. It hasn't identified the source of the Daily Mail's information as at today's date; is that right?

  • I've never had any role in the actual -- that PSD investigation itself, and as Mr Port said earlier, that is still an ongoing investigation.

  • Can I ask you, please, about the negotiations which you refer to in paragraph 25, where the Daily Mail had agreed to qualify their publication of the existence of DNA on Joanna's body. What do you mean by that?

  • Or should I ask the next witness, who may be able to assist us?

  • I think the chronology -- let's go back to the chronology of 2 January. As I said, I received a telephone call that contact had been made by a Daily Mail journalist to our corporate communications department around the nature of a story that they intended to release. We initially considered what legal options we could take to prevent that being publicised. The corporate communications department and not myself then undertook negotiations with the journalists and the paper themselves, so I had no involvement in that. And then obviously they published this story accordingly.

  • Did you have any involvement of negotiations, although they were unsuccessful ones, with the Sun newspaper regarding other information?

  • No, I didn't, sir, no.

  • The ramifications of this are clear in terms of damage to morale and potential to destroy trust. You refer to that in paragraph 26 and really the points are entirely obvious and understood, Mr Jones?

  • Can I deal with another series of questions which I've been asked to put to you. I gave the chronology to Mr Port. Vincent Tabak was arrested on 20 January, I believe. He was charged to 22 January, yet Mr Jefferies wasn't released from police bail until 4 March. Mr Jefferies gave evidence about that when he returned to the Inquiry at the end of February. Why was there such a delay?

  • Okay. When Vincent Tabak was interviewed, he gave "no comment" in interview. It was only a very small area around a mobile phone which he was willing to talk about. One of the topics in that interview concerned Mr Jefferies, to which he declined -- he again made no comment. Mr Jefferies was still a suspect in the investigation. There was still ongoing forensic examination work which was being undertaken. In particular, there were a pair of trainers which we found in Mr Jefferies' house which were hidden underneath a kitchen unit behind a kickboard. Those trainers had some -- had a blood spot on them. That was initially analysed and because of a sensitive forensic technique which they had to use, eventually a DNA profile was found and Mr Jefferies could be eliminated. So when the forensic lines of inquiry were completed, he was fully eliminated from the investigation, which is then when he was released from his bail without charge.

  • When he was released from his bail, why didn't you make it crystal clear that there was no evidence against him?

  • My recollection of when we released him from his bail, he was notified immediately and then I believe there was a media or press release that was circulated from our corporate communications department saying that -- and bear in mind that we'd never confirmed his name or didn't confirm his name until after the Vincent Tabak trial -- that said, "The 65-year-old man has been released without charge", but I can't remember the exact words that we used.

  • The question which I've been asked to put to you is that given what you knew about the vilification that Mr Jefferies had received in the press -- which, of course, you weren't responsible for, but you knew that it had taken place -- 31 December and 1 January in particular, but there were plenty of really egregious examples in that period -- why didn't you make it clearer that there was no evidence against him on 4 March? In other words, it wouldn't be a question simply of saying no charges were being brought against him, but that there was no evidence against him. Do you see the distinction?

  • I do, and I understand that, sir. In hindsight, yes, we probably could have released more information, but the most important information to release was that he was no longer a suspect in the investigation and that he'd been released without charge.

  • Okay. As I said at the outset, there may be proceedings which Mr Jefferies will bring resulting out of that, so you've probably gone as far as you wish to go, Mr Jones.

  • And arguably it's not central to matters this Inquiry is required to investigate into.

    Can I ask you, finally this, broad and general question -- it may be a slightly unfair one, but if it is, you'll tell me. Are there any general lessons arising out of this case, particularly -- I'll confine the question to engagement with the media. I'm not concerned with policing issues and technical issues of investigation, but are there any general lessons which you feel able to share with the Inquiry?

  • I think when it becomes at a national high-profile investigation, then clearly the volume and the demands upon us from the media is significant. Also, the time of year when this took place, there was a lack of continuity in terms of journalists, and what we found is that outside of the usual crime reporters we had general reporters there and journalists.

    I think for me the lesson that comes out of this is in relation to responsible and accurate reporting, which clearly at times there wasn't. This has a massive impact upon the family, because every time there was something speculative reported, in particular in relation to the Sun with the sock and also with the low copy DNA, then it would require us to make contact with the family, to make them aware of the fact this article was going to be published.

    It's really important that we maintain that trust and confidence with the family, and thankfully we achieved that with this investigation, but it does put a strain upon that relationship. Certainly that's the lessons -- some of the lessons that were learnt, anyway, in terms of the media, sir.

  • This was against the backdrop of an already highly pressurised investigation. It attracted national, it not international, interest and as every day passed without killer, as it were, apprehended, the pressure increased on you?

  • It did. It was an unrelenting media interest from the point that Joanna was reported missing, but I think the important point to make is that the support that I got from my corporate communications department and indeed from the Gold Group -- because they basically took the brunt of the media demands, allowing me to focus and concentrate on the investigation and ultimately finding the killer and ultimately convicting them. So that was my objective and that was made clear to me and they did an awful lot to protect me and allowed me to focus on that and not get distracted. And I think that's really important.

  • The Gold Group is a senior officer not involved in the inquiry but who, as it were, could take off these side issues?

  • The Gold Group, sir, was comprised of the Chief Constable, the gold commander was the Assistant Chief Constable for Protective Services, and the head of corporate communications, and they would meet daily. So they had an overview of the media interest and they were able to manage and deal with that, allowing me to concentrate on the investigation.

  • Thank you, Mr Jones. Those were all my questions.

  • Mr Jones, thank you very much indeed.

  • That's probably a convenient moment. 2 o'clock. Thank you.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • There's one small point I need to cover with Mr Jones which I forgot to, so may I recall him to deal with that?

  • Mr Jones, the point is this: in relation to a reward which the Sun newspaper were keen to offer, do you have any direct knowledge of that?

  • Yes, I do, sir. I think very early on in the investigation there was initially a £10,000 reward offered by Crimestoppers. Some time in early January, I think around about 7 January -- could have been earlier than that -- the Sun offered a reward.

  • That was 6 January.

  • Okay. What we were seeking to do is to facilitate -- link that reward in with the work Crimestoppers were doing and to have a single point of contact for information. I think initially there were difficulties and challenges around that, and I think initially the Sun wanted telephone calls to go directly to them on a particular number. Clearly we were concerned about that, and then I understand that there was a mutual agreement with Crimestoppers and the Sun and there was actually a telephone number published, which I recollect was the Crimestoppers number, and that was around about 7 January.

  • You have provided a comment or quote for the Sun, which was published, which says that:

    "I am grateful for the generosity of the Sun. I am sure Jo's family will be touched by this kind gesture ... demonstrates the level to which the murder has touched the nation and the commitment of the media in supporting our efforts to bring whoever is responsible to justice."

    Was that comment freely and fully given?

  • Yes, it was, sir, yes.

  • Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Jones.

  • The next witness, please, is Amanda Hirst.