'I helped Jo Yates's boyfriend drive to Sheffield'

A NEIGHBOUR of murdered Joanna Yeates recalled today how he and suspect Chris Jefferies helped her boyfriend on his way to Sheffield, saying: "It was a non-event at the time, but absolutely poignant now - what if we didn't get the car to start?"

Peter Stanley and landlord Mr Jefferies used jump leads to start Greg Reardon's car on the night of Friday December 17.

Hours later landscape architect Miss Yeates disappeared, and her snow-covered body was discovered more than a week later on Christmas Day.

Mr Stanley, 56, who lives in a flat in the mansion to the right of Mr Jefferies in Canynge Road, Clifton, Bristol, said he did not think the former teacher spoke to Mr Reardon about going away for the weekend, and said: "I wouldn't say there was anything tense between them."

Earlier today, police were granted extra time to question Mr Jefferies, 65, who is being held on suspicion of murdering Miss Yeates.

Officers can now quiz him until around 6pm this evening when they have the option of applying for a further extension.

The retired public school teacher was arrested yesterday at his flat directly above the basement Victorian property he rented to the 25-year-old Miss Yeates and 27-year-old Mr Reardon.

The bachelor's arrest came just 24 hours after he claimed he had seen three people leaving Miss Yeates's flat on the night she vanished.

An ever growing collection of flowers and cards has amassed near the flat where Miss Yeates lived.

One tribute read: "Sweet Jo, we'll miss your smile and laugh, work won't be the same without you."

Neighbours have described Mr Jefferies, who sports a distinctive mane of straggly white hair, as a "nutty professor type" who was active in his community - playing a prominent role in his local Neighbourhood Watch group.

He taught English at Clifton College, just yards from his flat, from the early 1970s before taking early retirement in 2001.

A spokeswoman for Avon and Somerset Police said the extension was applied for and granted at around midnight.

Mr Jefferies, an enthusiastic activist for the Liberal Democrats in Clifton, is also a member of the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society (CHIS), which campaigns to conserve buildings in the area.

Resident Tony Buss, 51, said his arrest yesterday came as "a shock and surprise".

He said the community had been worried about a killer on the loose.

Another neighbour, a 26-year-old man who did not want to be named, said: "It's all been pretty scary, especially for my girlfriend as I'm away most of the week so it's been pretty scary for her to be home alone."

Referring to Mr Jefferies, he said: "We see him all the time on the road. He's a bit of a nutty professor type by the looks of it."

CHIS secretary RoseMary Musgrave said: "He's certainly an active member and does come to meetings from time to time. He's not a member of the committee, though."

In 2005 he was at the forefront of efforts to stop building work on fields near his home.

He led the Canynge Road Campaign Group to save the fields from development and wrote a series of letters to Bristol City Council outlining the group's opposition to the scheme.

Ray Lowman, who lives in a flat opposite the mansion where Mr Jefferies and Miss Yeates lived, said: "I'm amazed by it really but also find it quite disconcerting. 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. I didn't know him particularly well, but it was very surprising.

"It's a terrible tragedy what's happened, and I'm just flabbergasted that Mr Jefferies has been arrested, and we await any developments."

Clifton College head Mark Moore said Mr 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," Mr Moore said.

"When a new head of English came into the school, he decided to bow out at that point."

Yesterday, police took two cars away on low loaders - a silver Chrysler Neon parked on the street and a grey Volvo S40 which was on Mr Jefferies' drive.

Forensic officers spent the day in both Miss Yeates's flat and Mr Jefferies' property - taking away large brown evidence bags from both.

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

Her parents David, 63, and Theresa, 58, said they were pleased an arrest had been made.

Speaking outside his home on Wednesday, Mr Jefferies, who was wearing a long coat with a fur collar and carrying a Waterstone's shopping bag, denied he had told police he saw Miss Yeates leaving with two unidentified people.

"It is a serious distortion of what I said to the police and I have no further comment to make as that, no doubt, will be distorted," he said.

Earlier, he had told Sky News: "I made some comment which was very, very, very much vaguer than that."

He added: "I definitely cannot say that I saw Joanna Yeates that evening. No."

This afternoon, Mr Stanley left his flat accompanied by a plain clothes detective.

He drove his own maroon BMW car away from his home next door to the house where Miss Yeates lived.

The officer had been speaking to Mr Stanley inside his flat during the day.

He emerged at around 3.15pm with four large brown evidence bags which he put into his own car boot.

Ten minutes later he was seen carrying a laptop case and spare evidence bags.

At about 3.40pm, eight uniformed officers were driven into the road in two large vans.

They moved journalists further down the road to allow Mr Stanley to drive away with the detective.

An Avon and Somerset Police spokeswoman said Mr Stanley was being treated as a witness who was helping detectives with their inquiries and he had not been arrested.

She also said forensic investigators had not been in his property.

She said: "He is helping us with our inquiries.

"I have been told there's been no forensic analysis in that property and we have just spoken to him.

"He is helping with our inquiries."

She added: "He hasn't been taken away from the property" and said he may have chosen to simply talk to police "somewhere else".

Earlier, Mr Stanley was seen showing the officer a distinctive army-style 4x4 truck in the driveway.

The 56-year-old took items out of the footwell and uncovered a large green tarpaulin from the rear.

As well as inspecting the green truck, which had "USA" and serial numbers printed on the side, the officer also looked inside the BMW saloon car.

Mr Stanley returned to his home with the plain clothes officer at around 4.10pm today.

The pair were driven back in a marked police car rather than the maroon BMW in which they had left.

Mr Stanley went inside and, shortly afterwards, the officer drove away in the unmarked car into which evidence bags were put earlier.