Joanna Yeates' boyfriend speaks of the agony of loss
Christmas will always be the most difficult time of year for Greg Reardon, the grieving boyfriend of murdered Joanna Yeates.
Her body was found on Christmas Day, a time of year which should be all about celebration for most people.
This time last year, Joanna was still alive. This year, heartbroken Mr Reardon is preparing to spend Christmas without the girlfriend he had one day hoped to marry.
In his first interview since that day, the 28-year-old architect has spoken of the nightmare over the last 12 months.
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“We were happy and in love,” Mr Reardon told a national newspaper. “We had lived together for over a year and got a pet cat together. I think it’s highly likely the relationship would have developed into marriage.”
The pair grew close working on an eco-housing scheme, with Mr Reardon designing the houses and Joanna the landscaping. A date at a pub developed into romance.
When Dutchman Vincent Tabak took Joanna’s life, he also ripped away Mr Reardon’s future.
Tabak murdered the landscape architect on December 17 last year, dumping her body in a snow-covered lane just outside Bristol. He is now serving a life sentence in jail.
Mr Reardon had left the couple’s Clifton flat hours earlier to visit his 33-year-old brother Francis in Sheffield.
He said: “She assured me she’d make plans and not be bored. I just thought, ‘It’s only one weekend, everything will be fine’.”
When he returned to the flat, Mr Reardon did not immediately think anything was wrong.
“I thought she had made plans to go out during the weekend and not told me,” he told The Sun. “I had a certain level of anxiety as I had not been in contact with her all weekend. But I thought there would be a perfectly good explanation and she would be back soon. As the evening went on I rang her mobile again and faintly heard it ringing in her coat pocket.
“It was then I felt panicked. I started pacing round the flat trying to find out what was going on, trying to justify the situation and keep myself calm. I went through her rucksack, that was packed full and sitting on the table, and found her glasses, purse and keys. I just went a little numb. It was a horrible realisation that something was seriously wrong.”
Mr Reardon immediately launched himself into helping the search, spreading the word of her disappearance across social network websites.
He added: “When I found out she had not been admitted to any hospital, or been picked up by the police, or returned to work on the Monday morning, I could only fear the worst. I knew she would not just run away.”
He added: “I curse the probability of the situation more than anything. Why couldn’t we win the lottery instead? It’s probably just as feasible.”
Greg told how he and Jo had been planning to spend last Christmas with her parents in Hampshire. And after Christmas, the pair had planned to join up with friends in Edinburgh for Hogmanay.
This Christmas, Mr Reardon plans to go skiing in an attempt to move on. He said: “I’m not sure specifically what I’ll do to remember Jo in the future but I’m certainly not going to forget her. I’ve visited her grave and will continue to do so. We are in the process of organising a proper headstone and it will be nice to see that.
Mr Reardon, who returned to work a week after Joanna’s body was found to help cope with his grief, has bought a flat in Bristol and is throwing his efforts into raising money for charity Missing People, which helped in the initial search for Joanna.
He added: “Now the trial is over, I’m ready to start afresh and get on with my life.”