A Dutch engineer strangled Jo Yeates with his bare hands before driving to a supermarket to go shopping – with her body in the boot of his car, a court heard today.
Vincent Tabak, 33, ”squeezed the life” of out the pretty 25-year-old in a ”desperate” struggle at her flat before bundling the corpse into his Renault Megane, a jury was told.
He then drove to Asda in the silver hatchback with her body in the boot while texting his unsuspecting girlfriend – claiming that he was ”bored”, it was claimed.
Tabak bought crisps, beer and rock salt before dumping the petite blonde on a snow-covered roadside verge and covering her body with leaves, prosecutors allege.
The court heard that tests on his computer later revealed he began searching the local police website about Jo’s murder before she was even reported missing.
Tabak has admitted the manslaughter of tragic Jo – found dead three miles from her home in Clifton, Bristol, on Christmas Day last year – but denies murder.
Yesterday the Dutch national faced Jo’s weeping parents, David, 63, and Teresa, 58, at the opening of his trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, claimed Tabak and Jo were virtually strangers – despite living next door to one another.
The Dutchman buried his head in his hands as he was forced to watch CCTV pictures of her final movements on the day she died.
Jo’s mum Teresa wept quietly as she saw her daughter on television screens around the court.
Mr Lickley said Tabak had ”squeezed the life” out of Jo.
He told the court: ”There is no doubt that he killed her – he has accepted that and pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.
”Vincent Tabak strangled her with his hand or hands, he held her throat long enough to kill her.
”He was in complete control and knew what he was doing.
”Injuries sustained by Jo Yeates are consistent with her desperately struggling against the violence towards her.
”Vincent Tabak, about a foot taller, continued to hold her neck and compress it until she died.
”We say there can be no doubt that he intended to squeeze the life out of her and he held her hard enough and for long enough to do that.”
Bristol Crown Court was told that Jo and her boyfriend Greg Reardon, 27, had moved into Flat One in Canynge Road, Clifton, on October 25 last year.
Tabak, who lived in the adjoining garden flat with girlfriend Tanja Morson, 35, went to America to work in November and only returned a week before the killing.
Landscape architect Jo, originally from Romsey, Hants., disappeared after leaving the Bristol Ram pub on the city’s Park Street at 8pm on December 17.
She had been enjoying drinks with colleagues from architect firm Building Design Partnership – where she worked with Greg.
CCTV pictures, screen to the court, showed Jo in the Ram pub with pals, before visiting Waitrose on her way home at 8.10pm.
She was shown buying two bottles of fruit cider from Bargain Booze in Clifton Village and sending text messages to friends on her journey home.
Cameras also captured her buying a Finest mozzarella, tomato, basil and pesto pizza from Tesco on Regent Street at 8.30pm.
The court heard she spoke to best friend Rebecca Scott on the phone just after 8pm while walking home – where they discussed meeting up for New Year.
Her last text message, sent at 8.29pm to pal Matthew Wood, said simply: ”Matt, are you out tonight?”
Mr Lickley told the court that Miss Yeates had probably arrived home shortly before 8.40pm.
The court heard that two witnesses, a Mr and Mrs Layman, had inadvertently walked the same path as Jo that evening while on the way to a house party in Canynge Road.
They had also popped into Bargain Booze and arrived at their destination shortly before 8.50pm.
The pair had noticed a light gleaming from the outside of Jo’s flat as they walked past.
Mr Lickley told the court: ”As she (Mrs Layman) approached the path of the house party she heard a scream.
”She looked around behind her. She thought it had come from the direction of the security light.
”She said it appeared to be coming from someone in distress.
”After a short period there was another scream. She described it as coming from the same person. It was more muffled.
”She also describes hearing a bang from the same direction, sounding like furniture being moved.”
The court heard that Harry Walker, living a few streets away in Percival Road, also heard the two screams.
Mr Lickley said Tabak returned to Canynge Road at around 7pm after being captured on CCTV cycling home from Bristol Temple Meads train station
His girlfriend, Tanja Morson, 35, employed by Dyson, was spending the evening at her work Christmas party.
The Dutchman was captured on CCTV, shown to the court, driving his Renault Megan around Bristol after the killing at 10pm.
At 10.28pm he stopped at Asda in Bedminster – going inside to buy Rock salt – used for clearing snow and ice – crisps and beer.
Mr Lickley said: ”It may have been that the body of Miss Yeates might have been in his car during that visit.”
He sent texts to his girlfriend Tanja at 9.25pm and 10.30pm, saying he was ”bored”.
CCTV pictures again showed Tabak driving up and down roads in Bristol, including roads that lead out towards Longwood, Lane, in Failand, North Somerset – where Jo’s body was found.
Prosecutors claimed Tabak had covered the body in leaves and snow – after trying and failing to lift it over a wall into Durnford Quarry.
Mr Lickley said: ”Sometime that evening he removed the body, put in the boot of his Renault Megane car and left it in Longwood Lane.
”There was blood on a wall next to it consistent with him trying and failing to get it over to the area beyond.
”Then he went to collect his girlfriend from her Christmas party in the early hours of the morning as planned.”
Boyfriend Greg, who had travelled to Sheffield to visit his family, texted Jo at 10.30pm when he arrived, but go no response.
His next text ended: ”Did you have a good night in the pub?”
On December 19, Jo’s boyfriend Greg returned to find her missing. Her keys, coat, phone, banks cards and receipts for her purchases were all found at the rented £200,000 flat.
The court heard that Tabak kept up his pretence in the coming days after Jo’s death – but prosecutors claim his internet searches revealed his secret.
Police officers and Greg knocked on Tabak’s door in the early hours of December 20 – just after she was reported missing – but he denied ever speaking to her.
However, forensic analysis of his laptop revealed he had searched the Avon and Somerset Police website on December 18.
He had also zoomed in on the exact spot where he had dumped her body, in Longwood Lane, on December 19.
Mr Lickley said: ”It is a striking similarity of this case that while one man was sitting worried about his girlfriend, on the other side of the wall was her killer.
”He had already embarked on internet research about her, which continued for about a month – focusing on his involvement and what he had done.
”You will hear how Mr Tabak continued his life – going to work and to dinner parties.
”He was able to manipulate and mislead others and mask his feelings.”
On the morning of December 25, Jo’s frozen body was found by dog walkers, 100 yards along Longwood Lane.
Detectives arrested Tabak on suspicion of murder on January 20. He was charged with the offence two days later.
Tabak, originally from Veghel, in Eindhoven, Holland, moved to Britain in 2007 after graduating with a master of science degree in architecture from Einhoven University.
He worked at engineering firm Buro Happold in Bath, Somerset, first living in the picturesque city before moving to Bristol and Canynge Road.
Tabak pleaded guilty to Jo’s manslaughter at a hearing in London’s Old Bailey courtroom on May 5 this year.
His murder trial, expected to last for four weeks in front of the Honourable Mr Justice Richard Field, continues.