JOANNA Yeates’s former landlord has accused police of leaking information about him to journalists following his arrest on suspicion of her murder.
Retired school teacher Christopher Jefferies made the accusation in a statement released by his solicitor yesterday and has called for an independent inquiry.
Last year Mr Jefferies accepted a libel payout from eight national newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, over false allegations they made against him following the murder of his tenant.
As well as paying damages to the former Clifton College teacher, the publishers of the Mirror and The Sun were fined £50,000 and £18,000, plus legal costs.
They were found guilty of contempt of court over stories they published after Mr Jefferies’s arrest on suspicion of murdering landscape architect Miss Yeates, 25.
Mr Jefferies, who owned Miss Yeates’ flat at 44 Canynge Road, Bristol, was questioned by detectives for two days before being released. He was later declared to be innocent and during the trial of Miss Yeates’ killer, Vincent Tabak, who was jailed for life in October, it was revealed Tabak had implicated Mr Jefferies by phoning the police and making false claims.
The statement, released by Stokoe Partnership, said: “It has become apparent that evidence put before the Leveson Inquiry confirms our earliest concerns about the confidentially with which the arrest and detention of our client was dealt with by those investigating the murder of Joanna Yeates.
“As a result of our attendance at the police station and of our reviewing of the material in the media, it became apparent that information had been deliberately leaked by as yet unidentified individuals in flagrant breach of their duty. Our client strongly believes this to be the case.
It added: “There needs to be an independent inquiry into this potentially criminal conduct on the part of officers from Avon and Somerset Police, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Mr Jefferies, considering whether to sue for wrongful arrest, was responding to evidence – disputed by Avon and Somerset Police – that Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace gave the Leveson Inquiry into media standards last week.
Mr Wallace apologised to Mr Jefferies and told the inquiry his judgment was affected by off-the-record briefings from the force in which they appeared confident that Mr Jefferies “was their man”.
But Colin Port, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, has denied the claims.