It’s a year since Jo Yeates’ killer Vincent Tabak was jailed for her brutal murder. Here her mum, Teresa tells Closer how she’s coping with her devastating loss
Originally published: 23 October 2012
When 25-year-old Jo Yeates disappeared in December 2010, her devastated parents prayed she’d come back alive. But tragically, after an agonising eight-day wait, her body was found on Christmas Day.
Less than a month later, 33-year-old Dutch engineer Vincent Tabak was arrested and, on 28 October last year, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 20 years.
For Jo’s mum, Teresa, 60, the grief is still as raw as ever. She says candidly: “They say time heals, but it doesn’t. All we can do is survive, but it’s still very painful. Nothing changes the enormity of Jo’s death. It doesn’t get any easier.”
'She was a lovely and, as well as being my daughter, she was my friend. We used to go for walks and go out for coffee together. I miss her'
The heartbroken mum – who also has a son Chris, 29, – even refused to celebrate her milestone 60th birthday in June, saying: “It’s a special occasion and something I always thought Jo would be around for. I didn’t want a big party.”
Talking about Jo, she says: “We had a close relationship. She was a lovely girl and, as well as being my daughter, she was my friend. We used to go for walks and go out for coffee together. I miss her.”
Jo’s dad David adds: “I adored Jo and was so proud of her. If she had lived, she would have achieved everything I didn’t. She had the drive and intelligence.”
Landscape architect Jo was choked to death by Tabak, her neighbour. He hid her body in the boot of his car, then later dumped it on a snow-covered verge in Failand, near Bristol. It was found by dog walkers on Christmas Day 2010.
Jo’s parents, who refuse to address her killer by his name, believe he should never be allowed to walk free.
Teresa says: “In the months leading up to the trial we had no interest or drive to do anything. Now that’s over, the motivation to do something gets a bit easier, but the pain never goes away.”
'If she had lived, she would have achieved everything I didn't. She had the drive and intelligence'
Teresa returned to her part-time job as a supermarket cashier six months ago and says: “It gives me a sense of purpose and the support I’ve had from my colleagues has been great.
“I’ve also recently taken up golf. I needed to do something completely new after Jo was killed. It’s something I don’t associate with her. I have to learn to live with her murder as best as I can. For me, it’s keeping busy. That’s how I cope.”
But David, 64, hasn’t gone back to his job as an IT expert. He says: “After what’s happened, my concentration has gone.
“We’re adjusting to life without Jo, but it’s tough and, although we’re moving on, we always feel her presence.”
David reveals Jo still has a bedroom at the family home she grew up in, full of her treasured belongings. He says: “We’ve never thought of moving since Jo’s death. We’re happy staying here and it’s comforting to have her room and her things close by.”
The couple helped some of Jo’s architect friends open a beautiful memorial garden for her in May. The garden, which is near their home in Ampfield, Hampshire, was designed to reflect Jo’s love of butterflies and nature. Teresa says:
“When I come to the garden and see butterflies flitting about, I think of Jo – she was such a free spirit.
“But although it’s comforting and a happy place to remember her, it’s also tinged with a sadness that will never go away.”
Jo, who would have celebrated her 26th birthday on 19 April, had hoped to marry her architect boyfriend Greg Reardon, 29. He still lives and works in Bristol, but has moved away from the flat they once shared in the city.
Teresa explains: “We have no contact with Greg. Everyone has to get on with their lives. I don’t know if he has another girlfriend, but if he does, that’s fine, he has to move on. We’re in touch with some of her close friends, but we don’t want to stop them progressing by being a continual reminder of what happened.
“I don’t ever go to Bristol. I don’t need to, I don’t want to.”
'When I come to the garden and see butterflies flitting about, I think of Jo- she was such a free spirit'
But, surprisingly, Jo’s parents have been in contact with Tabak’s ex-girlfriend Tanja Morson. Teresa says: “I feel sorry for Tanja. Her life has been ruined, too, and I think she still has counselling.”
A year ago this week, Jo’s parents attended Tabak’s month-long trial at Bristol Crown Court. Tabak claimed Jo had invited him into her flat and he choked her accidentally while trying to silence her screams after attempting to kiss her.
When the jury was shown photos of Jo’s beaten body, Teresa fled the room in tears. Talking about seeing Tabak in court, she recalls: “We looked at him, but he didn’t look at us. He never once said he was sorry for killing Jo. He had an option to let her go, but he chose to kill her. We feel nothing for him, not anger or hate, just nothing.”
David says: “He should never be freed, but he will be. When he’s served his time, he’ll be deported to Holland. It’s hard to accept he’ll just carry on with his life.”
Teresa adds: “The sooner he dies, the better.”
Teresa says she’s haunted at times that the police didn’t find Tabak sooner. Tearfully, she says: “That painful wait, not knowing whether she was dead or alive, could have been over sooner. Police should have caught him earlier.” Since Jo’s murder, the couple have cared for her pet cat, Bernard. Teresa has also kept her precious diaries, but cannot bring herself to read them. She says: “I want to look at them, but now’s not the time.”
Over the months, the couple have found some solace in speaking to other parents whose children have been murdered after being sent letters from other families. And Teresa and David regularly visit her resting place a mile from their home. Teresa says: “It’s very sad but I always go with flowers, something from our garden.
“Jo was a wonderful daughter and we miss her dreadfully – our beautiful Jo who had never done anything wrong in her life.”