Episode four of ITV’s new drama White House Farm introduced a huge twist for those unfamilar with the real-life case, after Jeremy Bamber’s girlfriend Julie Mugford came forward to the police and revealed that it was actually Jeremy – not his sister Sheila Caffell – who committed the murders at their family farmhouse.
Dramatising the real-life murders of a family in 1985, the six-part series looks at the killings of parents Nevill and June Bamber, their adoptive daughter Sheila Caffell and her two twin sons, who were all gunned down in their Essex farmhouse.
Police initially assumed that Sheila, who was schizophrenic, had murdered her family before turning the gun on herself, but suspicion later turned to her brother, Jeremy, who first called the poice on that fateful night.
Alexa Davies plays the role of Julie Mugford in White House Farm, but who is the character based on? Read on for the real-life history and interview with Davies…
Who is Julie Mugford?
Julie Mugford (played by Alexa Davies in the ITV dramatisation) was the girlfriend of Jeremy Bamber (Freddie Fox), whose adoptive parents, his sister Sheila and her sons, his nephews, were all killed in August 1985.
It had been Jeremy who had first called the local police, claiming that he had had a call from his father Nevill stating that Sheila had gone “beserk” and that she had a gun.
Julie initially supported Jeremy’s statements to the police, telling them that he had called her at around 3am on 7th August 1985, telling her that something was wrong at White House Farm. She also supported Jeremy during the funerals of his parents and Sheila, with photographs showing him clinging to her arm and weeping.
Asked about approaching the role of Julie, actress Alexa Davies told RadioTimes.com: “There are so many layers to this story, and so many layers to her. And so many things to consider; I mean she was 20-years-old when this happened, and she was left with this choice to make at 20-years-old whether to do the right thing and go to the police – even though she had no evidence – and didn’t really have any reason to think anyone would believe her. Or to keep it to herself for the rest of her life, which would be a very selfish thing to do, but she was 20 and in love and just wanted to get married and to have her life with this man.
“So it was very interesting and I loved thinking more and more about it everyday… Things just aren’t black and white, are they?”
What happened at White House Farm?
The White House Farm murders took place on 6th-7th August 1985, when five members of the same family were murdered inside a farmhouse (White House Farm) in the quiet village Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex. The victims were Sheila Caffell (played in the drama by Cressida Bonas), her six-year-old twin sons, Daniel and Nicholas, and her adoptive parents, wealthy farmers Nevill and June Bamber.
Jeremy Bamber, Sheila’s brother, lived a few miles away from his parents’ farmhouse, and was the first to alert the police.
The police – in particular the head investigating officer DCI Thomas ‘Taff’ Jones (played by Stephen Graham) – initially believed that it had been a murder-suicide committed by Sheila, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Looking to wrap-up what they believed to be an open-and-shut case, they destroyed a lot of evidence from the property, burning blood-stained bedding and mattresses.
When did Julie Mugford go to the police?
In September 1985, roughly a month after the murders, Julie Mugford (who by that time had split up with Jeremy Bamber) came forward and changed her police statement. She recounted how Jeremy had planned and executed the murders, revealing that he had previously spoken about his desire to “get rid of them all” and that on the 6th August he had spoken of the crime and the hefty family inheritance up for grabs, and said it was “tonight or never”. Bamber was arrested the next day.
Julie also testified against Jeremy and was a key prosecution witness when the case went to court in 1986. He was sentenced to five life terms, with a recommendation that he serve 25 years. He continues to maintain his innocence.
Where is Julie Mugford now?
To this day, Bamber has continued to campaign and appeal against his convictions, and many of his supporters have cast aspersions on Julie’s story.
Talking to RadioTimes.com about her role as Julie, Alexa Davies said: “I remembered the case, but I didn’t really remember much about Julie. So I googled Julie Mugford and the first thing that came up was the Bamber campaign talking about how Julie Mugford was a woman scorned and all this horrible stuff about her.”
The real-life Julie Mugford sold her story to the News of the World to the tune of £250,000, before moving to Winnipeg in Canada and becoming a teacher. She is now known as Julie Smerchanski.