For more than a month after the brutal 1985 murders at White House Farm in Tolleshunt D'Arcy, England, Jeremy Bamber convinced police that his sister Sheila Caffell had killed their family before turning the gun on herself.
On August 7, 1985, Sheila Caffell and her two children — a pair of twin boys — were killed, along with her parents, by her brother Jeremy Bamber in what became known as the White House Farm murders. Today, Bamber is one of only 75 inmates currently serving life in prison in the United Kingdom.
But at the time, Bamber pinned the murders on Caffell, claiming that she’d “gone crazy and took the gun.” And were it not for the shocking testimony from Bamber’s ex-girlfriend, the murders would still be blamed on Caffell to this day.
The murders were one of the most heinous mass killings in modern British history, and they captured the country’s attention. And the story of the slayings was recently dramatized in HBO’s limited series The Murders at White House Farm, which pinned the blame solely on Jeremy Bamber once again.
But Bamber’s legal team insists that their client was railroaded. And even some legal experts today question whether he could have committed the crimes — opening the possibility, once again, that Sheila Caffell killed her parents and her own children.
The Difficult Early Life Of Sheila Caffell
Like her adopted brother Jeremy Bamber, Sheila Caffell had an inauspicious start in life. Born on July 18, 1957, to the 18-year-old daughter of a chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, she was given the name Phyllis at birth. The Archbishop’s chaplain forced his teenage daughter to give up her child, and at just two weeks old, baby Phyllis was placed into an adoption agency.
Three months later, Neville and June Bamber, a wealthy couple who couldn’t have children of their own, adopted her and gave her a new name: Sheila Jean Bamber. The Bambers also gave her a good life, with access to prestigious private schools in Essex, Sussex, Norfolk, and London. A few years later, the Bambers adopted a little boy they would name Jeremy.
But despite the Bambers’ best efforts, Sheila fell into trouble. At 17 years old, she became pregnant with her high school boyfriend, Colin Caffell’s, child. Her parents arranged for an abortion before putting her back into secretarial school. Eventually, she changed her field of study and tried to become a beautician.
She soon contracted with a modeling agency and started her career in Tokyo. However, her relationship with Colin Caffell continued, and by the time she was 20 years old, she discovered she was pregnant again. She ended her modeling career, married Colin, and began preparing for her life as a wife and mother.
Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage when she was six months pregnant and would suffer yet another miscarriage before giving birth to twin sons, Daniel and Nicholas, in 1979.
But the couple struggled to make ends meet, and Sheila Caffell took on odd jobs to make extra money. When she found out that Colin allegedly had an affair, she divorced him and took their sons to live apart from him. And that, unfortunately, is when things began spiraling downhill.
Sheila Caffell’s Tragic Murder By Her Brother
Sheila Caffell lived with mental health issues all her life. But in 1983, amidst growing strain on her relationship with her parents, she went to a psychiatrist who formally diagnosed her with schizophrenia.
The psychiatrist described her as agitated, paranoid, and psychotic. But her adoptive mother had another, less complimentary, name for her: “the devil’s child.”
Caffell reportedly once admitted to her mother that she worried she was capable of killing her boys, and she occasionally spoke of dying by suicide. But her threats weren’t taken seriously.
That is, of course, until the night of August 7, 1985, when Jeremy Bamber called the police to inform them that his entire family — his father Nevill, his mother June, his sister Sheila, and Sheila’s six-year-old twin boys — were shot to death at the White House Farm.
At the time, Jeremy Bamber told the police that his sister had “gone crazy and has the gun.” And Caffell’s recent diagnosis, along with her strained relationship with her mother and the murder weapon found in her hands, led police to believe this explanation was the difficult, albeit correct, one.
But, in the subsequent days, Bamber’s ex-girlfriend revealed to police that he’d been plotting their massacre. Combined with the discovery of a silencer that contained Sheila’s blood, and the revelation that she’d been shot twice in the head prompted the police to arrest Bamber for the murder of his family so he could inherit their estate worth more than $500,000.
Eventually, Bamber was convicted of the murders on October 28, 1986. A jury found 10-2 in favor of the prosecution. Bamber was sentenced to five life sentences for the murders of Neville and June Bamber, Sheila Caffell, and her sons Daniel and Nicholas.
Reevaluating The Evidence Against Jeremy Bamber
In February 2021, investigator Mark Williams-Thomas — who helped uncover the sex crimes of former British television host Jimmy Savile — told The Daily Mail that he believed Jeremy Bamber was innocent, and there was “irrefutable proof” that his sister, Sheila Caffell, was the true culprit of the horrific crimes.
“I don’t believe Jeremy Bamber murdered his family — I think his sister Sheila Caffell did it and then took her own life,” he said, further explaining that Bamber’s behavior after the crimes were not evidence of guilt.
Bamber’s laughter when questioned about the crimes, his sale of everything in the home that even had a remote value, his attempts to sell topless photos of his sister to the tabloids, and even having his mother’s beloved dog put down were merely just evidence of “shock” about the horrific nature of the situation.
And to this day, Jeremy Bamber continues to maintain his innocence. His previous appeals were denied, and as of March 2021, his lawyers have filed yet another appeal. What happens with this latest appeal remains to be seen.
But for now, Jeremy Bamber is still sitting in jail, serving five life sentences. And his sister, Sheila Caffell, remains listed as one of his five unfortunate victims.
After learning about the tragic death of Sheila Caffell and the White House Farm murders, read about Harvey Glatman, the “Glamour Girl Slayer” of the 1950s. Then, learn all about Robert Berdella, “The Kansas City Butcher.”