The Media Accuse a Guy of Murder (Because He's Weird)
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Just before Christmas 2010 in Bristol, England, 25-year-old Joanna Yeates went missing from her home and was subsequently found murdered. The British media went crazy, which was predictable, since Yeates was young, attractive, popular, and successful, and there were many puzzling details. Her keys, phone, purse, and coat were still at her home, and there was no sign of a struggle or forced entry. Surely it must be someone known to her, but who? The media, however, thought they had busted this case wide open when they discovered that Yeates' landlord looked like this:
PA via The Independent
The kind of clue that could only come from shoddy, sensationalist journalism.
This is Chris Jefferies, a former teacher and, according to just about all of Britain's newspapers, "weird," "creepy," "a loner," and "a peeping Tom." Upon being arrested and questioned for a few days -- then released -- the tabloid press devoted themselves to proving to the British public that despite any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever, this guy was just really weird, yo.
The problem was that everyone who actually knew him thought he was pretty damn cool, regarding him as a "pillar of society," his eccentricities not quite extreme enough to convict him of capital murder. The press were forced to dig deep, discovering that, although he had an unblemished record, his students had often given him funny nicknames, like "Professor Strange" and "Hannibal Lectern." In their increasingly desperate attempts to pin something on him, they even reported that a former colleague of his was a convicted pedophile, and also, Jefferies once had blue hair. Blue!
"Blue, the same color of his balls when he doesn't get to murder someone!"
In the end, the entirely innocent Jefferies had all the charges dropped -- at which point he sued the hell out of the papers. Eight different newspapers awarded him substantial damages, and two were prosecuted and fined for contempt of court, with the judges describing the articles as "substantial risks to the course of justice" and a "very serious risk" that any future court defense would be damaged.