'The Murders at White House Farm': Who is Sheila Caffell? Tragic real story of ex-model accused of the crime
Spoilers for 'The Murders at White House Farm'
True-crime shows always generate curiosity. From documentaries to dramatized versions of a horrific tale, fans of this genre are intrigued if the content is engaging. HBO Max's latest drama thriller titled 'The Murders at White House Farm' is a six-part series based on the murders of members of a family on an English farm back in the 1980s. It was originally broadcasted by ITV on January 8, 2020.
In the first episode, we are introduced to the key members of the story. This includes June (Amanda Burton) and Nevill (Nicholas Farrell) Bamber -- the wealthy religious couple who own White House Farm, their adopted daughter Sheila (Cressida Bonas), a former model struggling with mental health issues, her ex-husband Colin (Mark Stanley) with whom she has two twin sons, Daniel and Nicholas, and their adopted son Jeremy (Freddie Fox).
Towards the end of the episode, things take a tragic turn when June, Nevill, Sheila, and the kids are found murdered. According to Jeremy, his father had called him and said Sheila had gone mad and had a gun. It was concluded it was Sheila who allegedly carried out the gruesome murder-suicide. However, when it’s murder, things aren’t always that simple. One of the investigators wasn't convinced that Sheila was capable of carrying out this horrific incident.
The tragic story of Sheila Caffell
She was born as Phyliss to an 18-year-old daughter of a senior chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as reported by Evening Standard UK. She was just two-weeks-old when her grandfather ordered that she should be given up and put into care. When she was three-months-old, the Bamber couple – Nevill and June – adopted her and gave her the name Sheila. The Essex couple couldn’t conceive their own children, so they adopted Sheila and also had adopted Jeremy. As per the report, she had attended various schools in Essex, Sussex, Norfolk, and London.
At 17, she was pregnant with her boyfriend Colin Caffell's child but her parents arranged an abortion. She later went back to pursue her studies at a secretarial college before training to become a hairdresser. Sheila even worked as a fashion model for a short period of time, spending two months in Tokyo with an agency, as per the report. However, at 20 she married Colin and got pregnant soon. After suffering miscarriages, she gave birth to twins – Daniel and Nicholas – in June 1979. After having kids, she stopped modeling and took up cleaning and waitressing jobs.
Colin and Sheila divorced eventually and she got into a friend circle where she was nicknamed "Bambi" and became involved with partying, drugs and older men, according to the report. Her relationship with her adoptive mother also wasn’t smooth. As per Evening Standard, June began calling her the "devil's child" as their relationship completely fell apart.
Sheila had a long history of mental health issues which included violent outbursts and banging her head against walls. In 1983, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was referred to a psychiatrist by her family, who had described her as agitated, paranoid, and psychotic, as per the report.
She was admitted to a hospital and was given anti-psychotic drugs when she was discharged. But she was then readmitted in 1985 – five months before her death. A few weeks later, she left the hospital but continued to have monthly injections of a drug that had a sedative effect. This led to her spending very less time with her kids.
Her mental illness history and Jeremy informing the police that he had received a phone call from his father to say that Sheila had a gun and was acting crazy on the night of the killings made her the primary accused. The murder weapon, a .22 rifle, was also found lying on her chest pointing towards her neck, according to Evening Standard.
However, her husband Colin was not convinced. As stated in Essex Live, Colin said, “Initially I was fed limited information about what had actually happened. I was also stopping people telling me things because I was trying to retain some semblance of happy images. Once people explained the circumstances to me I said, 'Sheila couldn't have done that’. She had never picked up a rifle in her life and certainly never knew how to fire one or re-load one.”
The other members of the family didn't believe the claim that Sheila was the culprit. Eventually, more than a year after the horrific crime, Jeremy was convicted and jailed for life for the murders in 1986. He is currently serving a life sentence at HM Prison Wakefield.
‘The Murders at White House Farm’ can be streamed on HBO Max from September 24.