ITV has just finished showing a dramatization of the horrific murders at White House Farm in Essex. In August 1985 the police were called to the remote farm near Tolleshunt D’Arcy and found that Nevill and June Bamber, their adopted daughter Sheila Bamber and her six-years old twin boys Daniel and Nicholas Cafell, had all been shot and killed. At first it was believed to be a case of murder-suicide: that Sheila who was suffering from schizophrenia, had killed her parents and children and then shot herself. But latter suspicion turned to Jeremy Bamber, the adopted son, and in October 1986 he was convicted of the murders. He is currently serving a life sentence in Wakefield Prison and still protesting his innocence.
The excellent TV series is based on two books: In Search of the Rainbow’s End by Colin Caffell, and The Murders at White House Farm by Carol Ann Lee.
Here we concentrate on the Kilburn, West Hampstead and other local links to the story.
For more information see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Farm_murders
Unable to have their own children, Nevill and June Bamber adopted two newborn babies: Sheila in 1958, and Jeremy in 1961, and they were brought up as a family.
In 1974 Sheila Bamber enrolled for a secretarial course at St Godric’s College (now Devonshire House Preparatory School), at the top of Arkwright Road in Hampstead. She lived in shared accommodation in nearby Wedderburn Road. She was 17-years old when she met 21-years old Colin Caffell at the Three Horseshoes pub in Hampstead. He was studying ceramics at the Camberwell Art School and they quickly formed a relationship.
Sheila abandoned her secretarial course and got work as a trainee hairdresser at the Robert Fielding School of Hairdressing in Regent Street. June Bamber also paid for Sheila to do a modelling course at the Lucie Clayton School in South Kensington and she got some work as a model. While Colin was at Camberwell, they had a room overlooking Peckham Rye Park. Colin finished his course and got a job in advertising. In 1977 Sheila became pregnant and June Bamber offered to buy them a flat at 12a Carlingford Road in Hampstead if they got married. They married in May 1977 but sadly Sheila lost the baby.
To supplement his income, Colin was writing for Billboard, the music magazine. In May 1979 during a reception at the Royal Albert Hall, he met Herbie Flowers, the bass player who had formed the band Sky with classical guitarist John Williams. Herbie’s daughter Jan Flowers was at the reception.
|Sheila and the twins|
Sheila gave birth to their twins on 22 June 1979. But Colin who was now in love with Jan, left in November and by February 1980 they were living together in a flat in Well Road, Hampstead. Having lost his advertising job soon after the twins were born, Colin began making pottery in the garage space of Herbie Flowers at Number 6 West Hampstead Mews. Colin and Sheila divorced in May 1982 but remained friends, and Colin and Jan saw the twins frequently. The following month June Bamber gave Sheila a loan to get a flat at Number 2 Morshead Mansions in Maida Vale.
Sheila suffered severe mental problems and in August 1983 she entered St Andrew’s psychiatric hospital in Northampton. At the beginning of 1984 Jan Flowers ended her relationship with Colin, and he briefly moved to a rented room in Ulysses Road, West Hampstead. He later met his new girlfriend Heather Amos, and in early August 1985 he rented a flat in Maygrove Road in Kilburn.
Shelia who was hearing voices, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was seeing Dr Hugh Ferguson, who worked at St Andrew’s Hospital but also had a practice at Devonshire Place in London, and he prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for her. At this time, the twins had been living with their father for five months.
On 3 August Colin held a housewarming party which Sheila and Heather, Jeremy Bamber and his girlfriend Julie Mugford attended. Sheila, who was taking the prescribed injections, looked vacant and confused. The next day Colin drove Sheila and the twins to White House Farm to stay with Nevill and June Bamber. This was the last time he saw them alive. On 7 August the police were contacted by Jeremy Bamber who said he had been phoned by Nevill who said that Sheila had gone berserk. When the police arrived at the farm, they found everyone had been killed and a hunting rifle lay next to Sheila’s body.
Colin was devastated by the traumatic events. But he organized the funeral service for Daniel and Nicholas Cafell at St James Church in West Hampstead on 19 August, and they were buried at Highgate Cemetery with Sheila’s ashes.
In September Julie Mugford told the police that she thought Jeremy had carried out the killings in order to inherit the farm. On the 8 September 1985 Jeremy was arrested while he was at Morshead Mansions and taken to Chelmsford police station. His trial was held at Chelmsford Crown Court and on the 28 October, after nine and a half hours, the jury found him guilty on all five counts of murder. Despite several appeals, Jeremy Bamber is still serving a life sentence.
Colin Caffell later worked in the field of bereavement and psychotherapy (both in Britain and the USA) with one of the world’s leading psychiatrists, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. As part of the way of coming to terms with the disaster, in 1994 he wrote In Search of the Rainbow’s End which has been republished to coincide with the TV probramme.
In 1999 he married again, and he and his wife Sally have a daughter. Colin has continued with his ceramics and sculpture work, and with his wife runs a studio in West Cornwall. In 2016 his sculpture, Memorial to Cornish Hard Rock Miners, was unveiled at the entrance to the last working tin mine in the area, the Geevor Mine, in Pendeen, near St Just.