I am a diehard believer in the right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, but I understand that most people do regard anyone arrested by the police as guilty of some crime. I am reserving judgment on the case of the murder of Joanna Yeates, but I do admit to being more than a little perplexed.
If this man was a confirmed bachelor, probably interested in men, as far as he had any inclinations, then the details of the murder remain obscure for me and probably for most readers of the newspapers. But I am left hoping that this is not the latest in a long line of cases where the police have simply arrested “the local weirdo”.
There are many aspects to the suspect’s description that present him as a rather interesting character, although a few sleazy descriptions too. First, there is the passion for the English language, and the fact that his pupils used to get good grades in a time when exams were worth something. Shelley. Poetry. Etc. Second, there is the passion for classical music, with pupils invited around to the flat for an evening of “music appreciation”, following the score while listening to pieces such as Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. If only teachers today had the knowledge and understanding to do so. Third, there is the membership of the Prayer Book Society. As a former member of the society myself, it seems to me the PBS is made up of people with an appreciation for the English language and England’s religious heritage. His participation in a campaign to save a rifle range is also interesting.
A question that springs to mind is “what was such a man doing in the Liberal Democrats?” The Lib Dems are not interested in linguistic or musical standards or England’s heritage. Could it be that homosexuality led the man to take an interest in antinomian political campaigns? There have been plenty of homosexual men whose interest in the English language, classical music and England’s heritage outweighed any inclination to join the sexual revolution (in its political aspects, at least). Other people have been quoted in the newspapers claiming he used to peer into the windows of his tenants’ flats and generally behave like a creep — the details create an extraordinary impression of someone both conservative and sleazy.
Although his friends have stated this man would not have been sexually interested in the woman murdered, I am not sure proof of homosexuality has been advanced to the public. Apparently, the man arrested refused to referee sport at school — and I would have thought many homosexual men would not be averse to spending time with teenage boys in sports kits? The lack of interest in sport is, however, an acknowledged “sign” of homosexuality.
Finally, another concern of mine is that this man was arrested on Thursday morning at 7 a.m., but after a number of extensions will be questioned until Monday before knowing if he will be charged. The first 12-hour extension was granted by a senior police office, the police thereby granting themselves the power to violate the rights of a suspect. The second suspension from Friday to Monday was granted by a magistrate; I wonder what evidence the magistrate required before granting this? This doesn’t mean the man is innocent — please don’t misunderstand this article — but if the police have evidence that he is guilty, he should have been charged in the first 24 hours. Constantly extending the deadline implies they don’t have the evidence they need yet. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this case, I think libertarians would have to oppose holding anyone for longer than 24 hours without charge.
Basically, I like nutty professor types, and will be sorry to see an England shorn of her eccentrics, and am concerned that in many people’s eyes eccentric behaviour is becoming prime facie evidence of criminal guilt. I don’t have any knowledge of the details of the case, but I just hope the police are acting on the basis of real evidence. On the other hand, if he is guilty, throw the book at him!