The Bambers: Murder At The Farm is a real-life whodunnit

He’s interviewed some of the most notorious and sometimes controversial public figures but there’s seemingly no end to Louis Theroux’s self-deprecating ways.
Jeremy Bamber, convicted of the killings of Neville and June Bamber, daughter Sheila Caffell and her twin boys, in 1985, is pictured in handcuffs, escorted by policeJeremy Bamber, convicted of the killings of Neville and June Bamber, daughter Sheila Caffell and her twin boys, in 1985, is pictured in handcuffs, escorted by police
Jeremy Bamber, convicted of the killings of Neville and June Bamber, daughter Sheila Caffell and her twin boys, in 1985, is pictured in handcuffs, escorted by police

A character who often feels better suited to life behind the camera as a result, Theroux’s recent transition to the role of producer seems like something of a no-brainer.

“I would love to be able to be involved in programmes that my face doesn’t have to appear in,” says Theroux earnestly. “I’ve always loved TV and making TV, but I’ve always almost felt as though the price of me doing it is that I’m on camera.”

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Founding independent production company Mindhouse Productions in 2019 alongside fellow producers Arron Fellows and Nancy Strang (who also happens to be Theroux’s wife), the new endeavour acted as a conduit for the filmmaker’s grander aspirations.

Building upon his desire to create “engrossing, complex, almost novelistic” multi-part documentaries as seen with projects like Netflix’s Making A Murderer and Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Theroux says the pandemic proved an opportunity to reflect and reassess his aspirations.

“I think it heightened something,” he says of lockdown. “I’m still figuring out quite what the aftermath of that looks like for me, but I do think it made me prioritise differently… it’s sort of made me inclined to go even further towards being behind the scenes.”

Noting he gets “every bit of the same levels of anxiety” working behind the camera as he does in front of it, the 51-year-old says the experience is “a whole new way of working”.

“I feel like a grown-up TV maker now,” he says, with just a hint of conviction.

“I suppose when it is working – and this is going to sound hopelessly insecure, but if I find I’ve made a suggestion and it’s made the project slightly better, I actually think: ‘Oh, well, maybe I do have something to offer’.

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“I know this is an insight into my own pathology, but I always worry that people tolerate my creative input because I’m on camera and they just sort of happen to humour me. When actually, being off camera, it’s a more pure kind of involvement because, really, I’m just another member of the team.”

The Bambers: Murder At The Farm is one of the first projects to emerge from the trio’s newly formed production house. A grisly four-part documentary that delves into the case of the White House Farm murders, the horrific tale is one that remains in the public eye more than three decades on.

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After local police were called to a secluded Essex farmhouse on August 7 1985, officers arrived to find the bodies of five people lying in situ — young mother Sheila Caffell, her twin sons, and both of Sheila’s parents — all of whom had been shot.

An incident that initially appeared to be a murder-suicide carried out by Sheila following a documented period of mental instability, new evidence later emerged that would point detectives towards Sheila’s brother, Jeremy Bamber.

“What really amazed me was how bizarre almost every version of the story is, and yet one of them, quite evidently, must be true,” says Theroux, who executive-produced the project.

“Sheila did have a history of serious mental illness and had expressed confused ideations about possibly doing physical harm to people.

“And at the same time, to believe that she did it, you’d have to believe that in her psychosis she did an almost executioner-style job — every one of the bullets, there were 20-something shots, hit its target.”

Following his conviction for all five murders, Bamber was sentenced to life in a maximum security prison.

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Bamber continues to claim he is innocent, and has spent the past 35 years fighting to overturn the verdict from the confines of his cell. Now, with Theroux and his team gaining access to never-before-heard tapes, the story has been brought to life using first-hand testimony and evidential footage.

Joined by director Lottie Gammon, who previously worked with Theroux on The Night in Question — a 2019 documentary focusing on college students accused of sexual assault, The Bambers: Murder At The Farm continues the decidedly dark theme.

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“There are various strange, anomalous factors that mean there are these two camps: the people who believe passionately that he (Bamber) did it, and the people who believe passionately that he didn’t do it,” says Theroux.

“This is a really complicated four-episode story,” agrees Gammon. “Often with a series, each series has a different story and that’s kind of how all series used to be. Now, we’re in this world of doing single narrative, which as Louis was saying, is kind of novelistic and it takes a lot of brains to get that right.”

Describing her and Theroux’s working partnership as a “good creative collaboration”, Gammon found herself in a rather unique position when filming for the project first commenced.

“I was actually heavily pregnant,” says the director with a laugh. “It was quite a weird combination, having this really heavy story and childbirth and being in the middle of a plague. So yes, it’s been a really weird year.”

The Bambers: Murder At The Farm premieres on Sky Crime and NOW on September 26 at 9pm.

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