Vincent Tabak trial: Yeates 'strangled for 20 seconds'

Jo Yeates holding her cat
Image caption Jo Yeates was found dead on Christmas Day after going missing on 17 December

Vincent Tabak said he strangled Joanna Yeates for 20 seconds after she screamed when he put his arm around her, a court has been told.

Extracts from Tabak's defence statement were read out to the jury at Bristol Crown Court for the first time.

Miss Yeates's neighbour Tabak claimed he put his hand over her mouth to stop the screams, Nigel Lickley QC said.

The 33-year-old Dutch engineer admits Miss Yeates's manslaughter, but denies her murder in Bristol last December.

Miss Yeates, from Ampfield in Hampshire, suffered 43 injuries at her flat in Clifton on 17 December and was found on a roadside verge on Christmas Day.

Mr Lickley, prosecuting, asked pathologist Russell Delaney about Tabak's statement that he held Miss Yeates's throat "for about 20 seconds" and only used moderate force.

Dr Delaney replied: "That period of time would be sufficient to cause the signs of venous obstruction and would be long enough to result in her death."

Also giving evidence on Monday was Miss Yeates's boyfriend of two years, Greg Reardon, who said he had a "buzzing level of stress" when he realised she was missing.

Mr Reardon had returned home to an empty flat after a weekend away visiting family in Sheffield. He had set off on the night she died.

When he returned on Sunday night, after having not heard from her during the weekend, he discovered her mobile phone and keys had been left in the flat.

He said the flat was untidy and that, unusually, Miss Yeates's boots were left in the middle of the hall.

"There were clothing, boots and shoes and general paraphernalia," Mr Reardon said.

Never met

He told the court he used Miss Yeates's phone to call her friends, and eventually her family, before he rang the police.

"I kept saying to myself 'she's gone out for the evening and she has forgotten her coat'," Mr Reardon told the jury.

Mr Reardon said he had previously met Tabak's girlfriend, Tanja Morson, once but he had never met the defendant.

During the investigation, Tabak and his girlfriend visited the Netherlands during the festive period, the court heard.

Det Con Karen Thomas visited the pair after their landlord Christopher Jefferies was arrested. Miss Morson had called Avon and Somerset Police to say they may have some useful information.

Tabak said on the night that Miss Yeates died, Mr Jefferies' Volvo had been facing one way in the driveway and the next day it was facing the opposite way.

Mr Jefferies was later released without charge and cleared of any wrongdoing.

Image caption Miss Yeates's boyfriend Greg Reardon said he was stressed by her disappearance

When Det Con Thomas visited them in Holland she said Tabak seemed "overly interested" in the forensic examination of Jo Yeates's flat.

She said Tabak seemed very cooperative.

"He was overly interested than normal for a witness in the forensic examination of the flat that Joanna Yeates lived in," she said.

"He was paying particular interest into why police had seized Joanna's front door.

"I found it odd he had so many questions around that issue." She replied that seizing the door was "standard practice".

Earlier on Monday, pathologist Russell Delaney told the court that Tabak may have used one hand to strangle her.

In reply to Tabak's QC William Clegg, he said he "cannot exclude the use of one hand".

Blood on T-shirt

Mr Clegg asked whether it would have been impossible for Miss Yeates to scream as her neck was being squeezed.

"That would depend on the nature of the neck compression," Dr Delaney replied.

Dr Delaney added the injuries were consistent with being strangled by either one or two hands and that blood on her T-shirt may have been deposited after death.

Mr Clegg asked Dr Delaney whether the fact that Miss Yeates's body was frozen could have affected the number of injuries on her body.

Dr Delaney replied: "In this case the injuries I have identified, in my opinion, occurred during death."

Pressed again by Mr Clegg, Dr Delaney accepted that "under some circumstances, yes", the formation of ice crystals in the body could appear after death occurred.

Dr Delaney was also asked about a fractured thyroid horn which defence expert witness Dr Nat Cary had spotted was broken in a third post-mortem examination.

The pathologist said "it did not appear broken" and said the fracture could have been there before death and became more pronounced during the post-mortem examinations.

The case was adjourned until Tuesday.

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