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1980’s attitudes towards Homosexuality

1985 saw the height of AIDS awareness and at the time it was dubbed in the media around the world as “The Gay Plague.” A sweep of homophobia was brandishing its way across the UK, with a government campaign of advertising to raise awareness about AIDS so that the public “Don’t die of ignorance”.   There came to be a social hysteria and intolerance over AIDS and homosexuality. It was suggested that AIDS and HIV had initially been more virulent amongst the gay community than in the heterosexual community.  Even programmes like Eastenders addressed Homophobic attitudes and these attitudes were also inherent within the police and amongst our society in general. On the NHS treatment for homosexuals unhappy with their sexuality was inhumane and degrading, as seen on Dr Christian Jessen’s programme: Undercover Doctor: Cure Me I’m Gay. Many 1980’s popular icons had not “come out” in fear of losing their fans, including singers like Boy George and George Michael. In fact anyone who was out was considered quite radical.  I am sure many of us remember the older generation saying “he’s a bit, you know. . .  queer.”

It is important to look at the Bamber case against the background of these cultural and social values.  Let us note that Jeremy Bamber had homosexual friends, as much as you or I would in today’s society, and thus it was speculated that he was bisexual.  I have already touched on Ann Eaton’s and Robert Boutflour’s bigoted attitude to homosexuality.  The police had similar attitudes, Sue Ford said the police and press persisted in pursuing the line of enquiry that Jeremy was homosexual.[1]  There are also handwritten actions including those by DS Stan Jones where he makes reference to Brett Collins: “Looks Like a poof.”[2]  Throughout DI Ainsley’s reports of 7th November 1985 and 23rd of September 85, he addresses the issue of the homosexuality of Jeremy’s friends, and airs his own suspicions that Jeremy might have been homosexual.  The reports are littered with references to this, but he fails to make any correlation between Jeremy’s association with homosexuals and the shootings.  It appears that two dynamics were going on.  Firstly, that accounts of Jeremy’s sexuality were purely speculative on the part of witnesses and police officers based upon Jeremy’s friendships with homosexual men. Secondly, that homosexuality was viewed by police and conventional culture, as linked in some way to “criminality” and further – What would be the relevance of Jeremy’s sexuality upon the case in question as there was no sexual or homosexual element to the crimes?

If Jeremy was having a sexual relationship with another man or indeed a woman other than Julie, all this would illustrate was Jeremy’s infidelity and might or might not give some reflection as to his character. Equally it would still have no bearing on the crime in consideration. Many documents have colloquial language for the term homosexuality. Let me give you some examples of the reports where, the correct terminology was used but in a negative context.  This excludes reports such as that prepared by DI Dickinson which is also littered with references to homosexual activity. For example in Ainsley’s two short reports of 1985. Here are some references:

“He fell in with criminal and Homosexual company”  

“He met the witness Brett Collins who is homosexual” 

Mugford claimed that Jeremy had openly admitted to her “at least one homosexual relationship” 

Mugford claimed that Jeremy had been to “New Zealand and there had some type of homosexual relationship with a man named Jeff it is also at this time that he met Brett Collins.”  

 “It was on the 13th of August that Brett Collins, the Homosexual friend of Jeremy’s who had stayed with Jeremy prior to August 1985, returned from a holiday in Greece.” 

“It is said that there he fell in with criminal and homosexual company.”  

“He is considered by some who know him to be bisexual”  

“Always looking for affection, especially from girls, a bisexual, a shallow person”  

“He is also an admitted homosexual.” (re: Collins)  

“In addition, Bamber himself is believed to have been involved in other homosexual associations.” 

There is more evidence, documents go on to state that Julie had, “said Jeremy was gay,”[3] and further in 1991 DI Hammett describes his lunch with Robert Boutflour and notes that he had remarked on Jeremy’s “un-savoury homosexual character” and that he was seen out “with a feather in his ear.”[4] I have only touched on some examples of these attitudes amongst the case documents. There are many more examples but there is not the space to cover this comprehensively.

If indeed it was important to mention that Collins or Jeremy might have been homosexual perhaps just one mention might have sufficed. One might argue that the police had tried to establish a sexual relationship between Jeremy and Brett to uncover if they had been involved in the shootings together, (Brett was out of the UK at the time) so there was no no evidence of this.  Brett told police in a statement that although he was homosexual he had never had a sexual relationship with Jeremy, while Jeremy himself denied anything other than a close, affectionate friendship with Collins.  Collins did have a criminal record for the very minor offences like possession of cannabis.[5]

Even if Jeremy Bamber were a self confessed homosexual it remains to be seen how this connects with the tragedies at White House Farm. As recently as 2004 Jeremy was depicted in a documentary as a homosexual and a transvestite on a tractor. It is clear that questions over Jeremy’s sexuality have persistently been used to persecute him and government bodies set up to regulate this have done nothing. I suggest, based on the documental evidence, that police had disliked Jeremy’s personal associations and so did his extended family and girlfriend. Bearing in mind that homosexuality had only been decriminalised 18 years previously, this evidence illustrates nothing more than the persecution of a man who was believed to be part of an unpopular minority group. There was an essential determination to tie Jeremy into this group because homosexuals were considered by many traditionalists as fitting into the same category as criminals.

[1] 16.09.86 Statement, Suzette Ford

[2] Holmes 45/22 Miller Handwritten Actions

[3] Master Schedule detail Box 10/308

[4] Holmes 24/61 DI Hammett Report, 1991 & Holmes 7:33 pg 10 R, Boutflour

[5] Criminal Record background check New Zealand Police