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Siôn Jenkins before
Police were tipped off by a prison supergrass after the inmate, doing life for murder, revealed his dark secret. They believe he could be telling the truth ... or so says the News of the World ...
Sion Jenkins to sue for compensation
Case could expose defects in police investigation and use of expert witnesses
Sion Jenkins a free man after 9 years
Media intent on reconvicting innocent man
Sion Jenkins left the Old Bailey on 9 February 2006 acquitted of the murder of his foster daughter Billie-Jo.
Reports in the media - BBC radio, television, the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror - all stress that this was a 'formal' acquittal, because the jury failed to agree a verdict. They all reveal evidence that was not admissible in the trial, which must have been fed to them by the police. None of it constitutes any kind of proof that Jenkins committed the murder.
The estimated cost of the police investigations, two appeal court hearings and three crown court trials is £10 million.
Using unlimited resources over a period of nine years, the police and prosecution have failed to find any evidence that proves that Jenkins murdered Billie-Jo. Everyone should accept now that he is innocent, and any reporters who try to suggest that he is in fact guilty should be ashamed of themselves. Such people who swallow the line fed to them by the police are incompetent, and we should not rely on the in future. They include:
The honourable exception is the Telegraph report. It quotes Sion Jenkins, who said:
Sion Jenkins gave his "everlasting thanks" to his legal team, especially his barrister Christopher Sallon QC and his solicitor Neil O'May, who "worked tirelessly on the case for five years".
He also thanked journalists, especially Bob Woffinden, who had supported him, those who had helped run his website and "a huge number of the public who understood my conviction was a miscarriage of justice and who have given support in these dark days."
INNOCENT is proud to say that it has always believed that Sion Jenkins was innocent.
July 11, 2005
The jury in the Sion Jenkins murder retrial at the Old Bailey was discharged today after failing to reach a verdict...
6 March 2004
his step-daughter, but will new evidence
clear Sion Jenkins?
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
The Victorian house on Lower Park Road in the East Sussex seaside town of Hastings has recently undergone a transformation. Both front and back gardens have been given a smart makeover.
Some 250 miles away in a cell in Wakefield high security prison in West Yorkshire lives the home's former owner, Sion Jenkins. He too is hoping for a fresh start.
It was at the back of the semi-detached property in February 1997 that a crime was committed which caused national revulsion and led to Jenkins becoming one of the country's most vilified figures.
The deputy headteacher was convicted in July 1998 of bludgeoning his 13-year-old foster daughter, Billie-Jo, with a metal tent peg in a fit of rage. He was sentenced to life for the murder.
But nearly six years after the trial,startling new evidence is beginning to emerge which raises disturbing questions about Jenkins' guilt, and which could lead to his acquittal later this year.
The Court of Appeal has ordered a new investigation into the actions of a mentally ill man who was the police's first suspect for the murder. Lawyers for Jenkins have also obtained expert forensic analysis that challenges the prosecution's key evidence about bloodstains found on the teacher.
The third plank of the Court of Appeal challenge by Jenkins' legal team is two of his daughters, who the defence claim can provide their father with an alibi. They will be cross-examined and will give live evidence for the first time at the appeal hearing later this year. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice, referred the case to the Court of Appeal last year after re-examining the evidence given at the trial, and the fresh evidence produced by the defence.
Nevertheless the police are adamant that they got the right man and the Crown Prosecution Service will be defending the conviction in court.
If Jenkins were to be freed at the hearing, which is expected to take place in the summer, it will be hugely controversial and lead to the obvious question: if he did not murder Billie-Jo, then who did?
The brutality and apparent randomness of a crime committed by a churchgoer and a respected member of the community shocked the nation. At his trial in Lewes Crown Court, the jury heard that Billie-Jo's body was discovered on the patio at the back of the family home, where she lived with her foster family: Sion, his wife Lois, a social worker, and their four daughters.
The prosecution successfully argued that Jenkins, now 46, had returned to the house in the afternoon of Saturday 15 February 1997 with two of his daughters, Annie and Lottie.
He entered the house, where Billie-Jo had been painting the patio doors, and in an uncontrollable rage bludgeoned her death. He then took his two daughters out to a DIY store in order to create a false alibi for himself. On their return to the house he found the body and called 999 for help.
The prosecution was unable to suggest any reason why Jenkins might have committed the murder, although after his conviction it emerged that he had struck out at his wife on a number of occasions and had once kicked his stepdaughter. The police suggested that he simply lost his temper, possibly provoked by Billie-Jo playing loud music.
The crucial forensic evidence against Jenkins at his trial was the discovery of 158 microscopic bloodspots on his clothing. A forensic scientist successfully argued that the thin mist of droplets was created as Jenkins swung the 18in tent peg, striking his foster daughter at least nine times.
Jenkins' legal team challenged the forensic evidence in an appeal in 1999, but the court rejected the challenge. Since then, fresh evidence has emerged following inquiries by the defence team, headed by the lawyer Neil O'May, and investigators from the CCRC.
One of the principal issues surrounds a paranoid schizophrenic man who had been seen sitting in a park within eight minutes' walk of the murder scene at the time of Billie-Jo's death.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested by the police after a guesthouse owner living on Jenkins' road reported that he had been behaving strangely on the night of the murder. He was later eliminated from the inquiry after Sussex Police found at least three witnesses who said he was in the park at the time of the murder.
But it has since emerged that when the man was arrested and placed in cells he tried to stuff into his mouth a piece of plastic that he had been keeping hidden in his clothing. It was later confiscated by police. This is considered potentially significant because part of a plastic bin liner was found buried deep in Billie-Jo's left nostril. The CCRC has now been asked to investigate whether the man had a fixation with plastic bags.
The man, who resisted arrest, was never questioned because he was considered medically unfit. Items of his clothing were forensically tested, but no bloodstains were discovered. But the defence believes that he may have destroyed some clothing. There are also questions being asked about the accuracy of the timings given by witnesses who saw him in the park.
There is also a dispute over the evidence given by Jenkins' daughters, Annie and Lottie, now aged 19 and 17. Neither the police nor the defence called the girls to give evidence at the trial, instead relying on a police video interview, which was interpreted as giving Jenkins a few minutes' opportunity to murder Billie-Jo.
The CCRC re-interviewed the girls in 2002 and the defence now believes that the original defence team were "wrong-footed" or misled at the trial and that the teenagers' testimony provides their father with an alibi for the time of the murder. Annie and Lottie will be cross-examined at the Court of Appeal in the summer and it will be up to the judges to decide whether their evidence is admissible.
The third area of dispute is over the forensic evidence. In the appeal court, two professors from Sheffield University will argue that evidence given at the original trial was wrong. The forensic specialists will say that air trapped in Billie-Jo's dead body, possibly by a blood clot, could have been released by her foster father as he attended her, and thus have produced the thin mist of blood droplets. They will also question why Jenkins did not have more blood on him considering the huge amount of fluid lost during the savage attack.
Throughout his campaign to prove his innocence, Jenkins has maintained the support of his parents David and Megan, and a small group of supporters.
But his relationship with his wife, Lois, has deteriorated. Soon after Jenkins' conviction she remarried and moved her family to Australia. She has also written a newspaper article complaining about the "self-righteous justice industry".
The time away from his daughters has clearly been hard for Jenkins. He said last year: "My eldest [daughter] is now an adult woman and my other three daughters are maturing teenagers. This has been an aspect of my imprisonment that I've found impossibly difficult to bear - it's something I think about every day."
But despite the new appeal, the man who helped put Jenkins behind bars, Chief Superintendent Jeremy Paine, the detective who headed the inquiry, is unimpressed. He said yesterday: "I would not have charged him with murder unless I was utterly convinced he was guilty of this crime. I remain convinced of it."
Evidence that convicted Jenkins
The grounds for appeal
12 May 2003
A man jailed for the murder of his foster daughter has been given leave to launch a second appeal against his conviction.
Lawyers for Sion Jenkins said the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) had referred his murder conviction to the Court of Appeal.
Jenkins was convicted at Lewes Crown Court in 1998 of killing his foster daughter, Billie-Jo Jenkins, in February 1997.
An appeal in 1999 was dismissed but the CCRC has reviewed the case and ordered that it should go back to the Court of Appeal.
Jenkins' solicitors have said the decision relates to the fact that two of the former deputy head teacher's natural daughters were not called to give evidence at the original trial, and to evidence given by a pathologist.
Jenkins 'elated' at news
Neil O'May, from Bindman & Partners, who represent Jenkins, said: "It is pretty important to hear from the two people who were with Sion Jenkins throughout the afternoon when Billie-Jo died.
"We are confident that the Court of Appeal will mark this case as a miscarriage of justice.
"Sion Jenkins is elated with the news. After spending such a long time incarcerated in prison, the end is now in sight."
Jenkins's first appeal was dismissed in December 1999 when the court upheld the verdict that Jenkins, from Aberystwyth, had bludgeoned the 13-year-old to death with a metal tent spike.
Billie-Jo was painting patio doors at the rear of the family home in Lower Park Road in Hastings, East Sussex, when she was attacked.
The former deputy headmaster's parents, David and Megan Jenkins, of Aberystwyth, said the Appeal Court ruling was a "shocking miscarriage of justice".
The jury at Lewes Crown Court had been told that about 150 microscopic blood spots found on his clothing could only have resulted from Jenkins being close to the girl as she was struck.
His appeal hinged on fresh evidence of tests said to show that the blood spots could have come from the dying girl's breath as he stood over her.
Jenkins claimed to have found Billie-Jo's body when he returned from a shopping trip with two of his four natural daughters.
29 September 2002
is banned from theology course
By Bob Woffinden
Sion Jenkins, the former deputy headteacher convicted of murdering his foster daughter, has been refused permission to take a prison theology course because he continues to plead his innocence.
Jenkins was found guilty in July 1998 of the murder of 13-year-old Billie-Jo at their home in Hastings, East Sussex, on the basis of controversial forensic evidence.
His appeal was turned down in 1999 and his case is being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. His innocence has been argued in several newspaper articles, a Channel 4 documentary and on a website devoted to the case.
While serving his life sentence at Wakefield prison, Jenkins, who has been a practising Christian for more than 20 years, had wished to take a diploma in theology at St John's College, Nottingham, an evangelical college that trains people for the Anglican ministry.
His ambition echoed that of Jonathan Aitken, the former Conservative Cabinet minister who was jailed for 18 months in 1999 after admitting perjury.
On his release, Mr Aitken studied theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Jenkins, whose application was supported by Canon Stuart Bell, the rector of Aberystwyth, was told, however, that he would not be allowed to take the course unless he confessed to having killed Billie-Jo.
"I recently applied to do the course, but the governor told me that I wouldn't be allowed to do it until I admitted guilt," he said in a letter to friends. "In effect, I'm being blackmailed."
Jenkins said that the Prison Service could not accept that some inmates would continue to appeal against their convictions.
"The attitude of the prison authorities towards those of us who are serious appellants is to try to break our spirits. Everything is designed to apply pressure so that eventually men are broken and say exactly what the prison wants. This can achieve nothing more than the perpetuation of injustice."
Billie-Jo was battered to death in February 1997. Jenkins claimed that, returning with two of his daughters from a trip to a DIY store, he found her body on the patio.
At his trial, his bloodstained clothing was held to be incriminating evidence and the prosecution asserted that he had murdered her before leaving home. Jenkins has always insisted that his foster daughter was murdered by an unknown intruder while he was out.
Canon Dr Christina Baxter, the principal of St John's, confirmed that Jenkins would have been likely to be able to take an extension studies course had his application gone ahead.
"We've never had any problems with prisoners doing our courses," she said, "and we would have no policy of discrimination against them - rather the reverse. We would think that our courses would help them to engage better with the world when they came out, whether they were guilty or innocent."
The funding of Jenkins' course had already been arranged by Canon Bell, who attended his trial and has supported him throughout. "There's no insight, no flexibility," Canon Bell said.
"The Prison Service is saying, not only are you not going to get these years back, you're not going to do anything useful with them at all until we have squeezed an admission out of you. If, as we trust, Sion is going to be proved innocent one day, then it just increases the sense of disaster."
The Prison Service has always denied that inmates are discriminated against for refusing to confront their offending behaviour.
"It is not the case that prisoners who plead their innocence are denied rights and privileges," said a spokesman. "
There is no rule or policy that automatically prevents prisoners from progressing through the system and being released." He added that if Jenkins had a grievance, he should make a complaint.
10 July 1998
Bob Woffinden finds that, thanks to another failure of British justice, Billie-Jo's true killer remains free
Amid the inevitable publicity, Siôn Jenkins, deputy head of a Sussex comprehensive school, was last week convicted of the murder in Hastings of his foster daughter, Billie-Jo Jenkins, and jailed for life. He is, in my view, entirely innocent. Readers who are familiar with the catalogue of disasters that characterises the recent history of the British criminal justice system will be unsurprised to learn that the "miscarriage of justice" television documentary is already under way.
Just about all the tell-tale signs of miscarriage can be found in the Jenkins case. First, the absence of significant direct evidence, either from eyewitnesses or from scientific tests. If you or I had battered someone to death in a fit of temper with a metal tent spike, and the crime had been almost immediately discovered, they'd have been bringing the evidence to court by pantechnicon. In this case there was almost nothing. (I'll come to the invisible blood spots later.)
Second, the absence of indirect or circumstantial evidence. The phrase "purely circumstantial" is often used in ignorance not just by members of the public, but even by lawyers. In fact, a purely circumstantial case could well be a very good one. But here, for example, there was scarcely any opportunity for Jenkins to carry out the murder. He was with his children much of the time, so there was no chance for him to dispose of incriminating evidence or compose himself after what would have been, had it happened, an emotionally overwhelming experience.
The lack of a realistic timetable in which a crime could have occurred is an enduring feature of miscarriages, from the Guildford Four case to the convictions of three women in the Merthyr Tydfil murder and arson case, which is due to go to appeal later this year.
The prosecution case was that Siôn Jenkins had been consumed by mounting anger because his wife had asked him to take her chequebook to Safeway's. He'd taken the wrong one. Then he had to give his daughter's friend a lift home. Then he'd tried to create a fake alibi by going out to buy white spirit when he knew all along there was some left in an old container. Probably, manufacturers of white spirit would provide figures about the hundreds of thousands of us who purchase fresh white spirit when there's already some at the back of the cellar. If such everyday occurrences precipitate murder, half the country must be at permanent risk from the other half.
The only circumstantial evidence (which was not before the jury) was a statement from Peter Gaimster, a family friend, that Jenkins had kicked Billie-Jo on a holiday in France.
A handy rule-of-thumb for determining whether a correct verdict has been reached at a trial is this: the dodgier the conviction, the greater the smear job conducted immediately afterwards. If someone has been properly convicted, the police do not need to gild the lily when briefing the press. In this case the prosecution pulled out all the stops in its character assassination.
The Sun's front page, headlined "Foster dad's sick lust for Billie-Jo", was a complete fabrication. The possibility of sexual abuse was fully checked out and completely discounted. The Mirror's story this week, about a 17 year old who claimed an affair with Jenkins, was hardly evidence of murderous intent, whether it was true or not.
We should remember that the period immediately after a conviction is one of those rare moments when the libel lawyers give reporters carte blanche to write whatever they want and when the prosecution and police want to make any appeal as tough as possible. After the conviction of the Taylor sisters for murder in 1992 a story was circulated that Lisa Taylor had killed a dog in a supermarket in Southend. It was complete rubbish, but it appeared in most newspapers. The convictions were overturned at appeal the following year.
Another pointer to a miscarriage is a police statement afterwards along the lines of "Well, we'll never know why he committed this crime..." Probably that's because he didn't.
What the jurors should have always borne in mind is that Jenkins was entitled not just to the presumption of innocence, but to what the late Lord Devlin described as "the right to the advantage of the initial incredulity". In real life, deputy headteachers, even ones who've been more than usually inventive in compiling their CVs, do not batter their children to death. That should have been the lodestar, pointing a course from which the jurors could be diverted only by compelling and unambiguous evidence. In this case, there wasn't any.
Instead there was the evidence of the invisible blood spray. To assess this, you have first to understand how the forensic science industry in Britain has been re-shaped.
The police are no longer obliged to use the former Home Office Forensic Science Services (now floated as a "Next Steps Agency"). At stake, for those who can convince the police services of their ability to deliver in this field, is a lucrative market of about [pounds]50 million a year. I am not suggesting that any of the witnesses in this case behaved with anything other than absolute probity; but against this background, some witness-box performances could have been construed as marketing ploys.
Initially the prosecution argued that the 150 microscopic blood spots on Jenkins' clothing were consistent only with his having been the attacker. The defence countered that this pattern could instead be explained as a fine blood spray discharged from the nostrils as the girl lay dying. At that juncture, two months before the trial started, the prosecution case was dead in the water.
However, the prosecution then conducted fresh experiments which purported to show that a dying girl would not exhale that amount of blood. At the trial the defence argued that the amount of blood was irrelevant; what mattered was the velocity of flow. The important point, however, was whether Billie-Jo could still have been breathing when Jenkins went to her.
The case therefore became enmeshed in conflicting theories of advanced neurosurgery, which concerned types of abnormal breathing patterns associated with brain injury. On this subject there is no scientific consensus, except "we don't know". One can imagine forensic scientists hitting these arguments back and forth, like tennis players rallying from the baseline, for months and years. But no one should be convicted solely on such evidence. In this case the abstruse discussions - about blood discharges, velocity of flow and so on - simply obscured, conveniently for the prosecution, the essential absence of evidence.
What all this shows is that miscarriages of justice are not just part of history. The conviction in April of Miles Evans, an army private, for the murder of his stepdaughter, Zoe, is also widely regarded as a miscarriage.
And thanks to Michael Howard, Jack Straw's predecessor as home secretary, the risks are likely to grow. The Jenkins case was conducted under rules that will shortly be superseded by new regulations, brought in under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. This will require the defence to reveal its full case to the Crown prior to trial. It will allow the prosecution to repair any damage to its case. At present, each side (to continue the tennis metaphor) has one service game before the case goes to trial. In future, the prosecution will have two service games, the defence just one. It will be as nakedly unfair as that.
Extraordinarily, the 1996 act will also allow the prosecution itself to determine what material will benefit the defence, and not to disclose material which in its opinion does not assist the defence. In the Jenkins case, where the old rules applied, the Crown lawyers disclosed everything. So the defence team, headed by Anthony Scrivener Q.C, went through it all and, after a month's work, found a police note about the reconstruction of the crime, which had not been included in the officers' statements. This suggested that Billie-Jo may have been holding her chin up, and so still been alive, when seen by a neighbour whom Jenkins had summoned. A less assiduous defence team might never have found the note. In future, as a result of the 1996 act, even the best lawyers will not have access to such vital information.
When the 1996 act was passing through parliament, Michael Howard was repeatedly told that it would result in greater numbers of innocent people going to prison, as well as a further erosion of the frail reputation of British justice. It would also entail continued distress, grief and confusion for victims and the bereaved. Nevertheless, the bill went through, and it will further disable the defence at a time when concern about miscarriages is already high.
Jenkins did suffer from another effect of Tory legislation, which was the abolition of the defendant's right to peremptory challenge of jurors. That right would almost certainly have been taken up on this occasion, because the barrister would have wanted to empanel at least some jurors from the same social background as his client.
The implications of miscarriage of justice go well beyond individual cases. Jenkins will now be categorised, unless the miscarriage is rectified, as an offender. What does that do to a criminologist's understanding of what leads to criminal behaviour? And what of the accusations against social services departments who, supposedly, made a serious error in allowing Jenkins to foster a child? As he is innocent, they have no reason to reproach themselves.
But if Jenkins didn't kill Billie-Jo, who did? In this case, as always, it was the police assumption that those close to the victim were most likely to be responsible. Yet there were 85 reports of prowlers, suspicious characters and incidents near the Jenkins home over the previous two years.
From among these, the police had a redhot suspect: someone with a psychiatric history and a known record of violence towards children, whom a number of people saw loitering nearby on the afternoon of the murder. When the police went to interview him he seemed strangely to have disposed of most of his clothing.
Whoever the true murderer is, he now has the opportunity, as a result of the vagaries of British justice, to kill someone else's daughter.
2 July 2000
The Trials of Siôn Jenkins
Two years ago today, Siôn Jenkins was found guilty of the murder of his foster-daughter Billie-Jo. He has appealed against the conviction, and lost. Yet there are those who believe he has been unjustly imprisoned. Bob Woffinden is one of them
With murder, as with so much else, timing is of the essence. One case may become a national talking-point; another, with equally disturbing features, is ignored altogether. But if a murderer, wanting maximum publicity for his evil deeds, hired his own PR agent, he would be advised to commit murder on a Saturday afternoon. The police need to spend the rest of the day securing the crime scene and breaking the terrible news to relatives. News of the crime can then be given to the media early on Sunday morning, thus giving the press a ready-made solution to what editors acknowledge to be their weekly quandary: what do we put in the papers on a Monday morning?
So news of the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins, which occurred at about 3.30pm on Saturday 15 February 1997, duly made the front pages of almost every national newspaper the following Monday morning. But it wasn't just the accident of timing that caused the crime to lodge so firmly in the public consciousness. There was also the unusual savagery of the crime (the police surgeon called to the scene said that it was the most brutal murder he had ever attended in the 26 years of his career), and the haunting photograph of the attractive 13-year-old schoolgirl whose life had been so cruelly cut short.
Finally there was the identity of the man ultimately convicted of her murder: her foster father, Siôn Jenkins, then 39, and headteacher-designate of William Parker boys' school in Hastings.
Siôn Jenkins, the elder of two boys whose father had made a successful career in management, was 23 and a teacher at Stepney Green boys' school when he met 19-year-old Lois Ball in London in the spring of 1981; he was also a keen sculptor and had a studio in Wapping. Lois was a student nurse at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. She was from Poole, Dorset, the oldest of four children whose family had been part of the Exclusive Brethren, a strict Christian sect. In a statement she later gave the police Lois said, 'We had a fast, fun-loving relationship and had an exciting time together. We attended lots of parties and social events.'
They married in December 1982, and their first child, Annie, was born in June 1984. At this point Lois gave up nursing and became a registered childminder. Their second child, Lottie, was born in March 1986, and it was then that Siôn and Lois became involved with the Baptist Church. After Jenkins was promoted, the family moved to Waltham Forest, where Esther was born in February 1988 and Maya in November 1989. After Maya's birth Lois began working as a social worker with children with special needs.
In 1992 the couple answered a newspaper advertisement looking for foster parents. One of the children concerned, Billie-Jo (whose surname, coincidentally, was also Jenkins), was a schoolfriend of Annie's, although she was just over a year older. She was not having an easy time in care; on one occasion, her father snatched her and the police found them at 11 that night in a pub in Canning Town. Billie-Jo was placed with the Jenkins family.
When, later that year, Jenkins was offered the post of deputy head at William Parker, Billie-Jo went with them to Hastings. The move - to a comfortable family home, looking out on to Alexandra Park, and with overgrown woodland behind - was not without its difficulties for Billie-Jo, but Lois remarked that, overall, Billie-Jo had coped with the change 'very well'. Indeed, only days before the murder, Lois and Siôn had obtained a residence order which gave them parental responsibility for Billie-Jo (effectively, a halfway stage between fostering and adopting).
Saturday 15 February was the first bright Saturday of the year. Coming at the end of a damp and dismal half-term week, it was the kind of day that lifts everyone's spirits. Siôn and Lois had recently opened bank accounts for Billie-Jo, Annie and Lottie, and all three wanted the opportunity to earn extra pocket money: Billie-Jo and Annie argued about who would paint the patio doors, but agreed that Billie-Jo would make a start while Annie cleaned out the utility room and washed the Opel (there were three family cars: a Citroën, an Opel and, Siôn Jenkins's pride and joy, a white MG Roadster). Then, at about 4pm, Annie would take over the painting, allowing Billie-Jo to go into town to buy the Reebok trainers she wanted. The jobs were going slowly - Billie-Jo was filming the dog with a camcorder - but after lunch she and Annie settled down to their tasks. Meanwhile Lottie went to a clarinet class, and Lois took the two younger children shopping, and then walking on the beach.
Soon it was time for Siôn Jenkins to pick Lottie up from her class. Did the others want to come? Jenkins had taken out the MG and, for the first time since the previous summer, rolled back the roof. Billie-Jo said she'd carry on painting, but Annie decided to go. They picked Lottie up and gave a friend of hers a lift home from the class. Lottie's friend had lately moved house, and could not at first remember her way home; when they finally dropped her off, her mother recalled, it was between 3.15 and 3.20pm; she had been checking the clock because they were so late.
Jenkins, Annie and Lottie then went home but almost at once the three of them went out again - Jenkins had remembered they needed white spirit. As he considered the road too dangerous to do a three-point turn, he drove the car off in the 'wrong' (that is, longer) direction and went round the park. Then, while he was driving, he decided it was too late for Annie to start painting and started to head back home. Annie, though, looked downcast, so he changed his mind again and they went round the park once more. When finally they reached Do-It-All, Jenkins realised that he hadn't taken any money with him, so he drove home again.
When they got back to the house, Jenkins opened the door and Annie and Lottie raced in ahead of him. He was, he says, then aware that Lottie had stopped stock-still. 'Dad,' she screamed, 'Billie's hurt.' Billie-Jo was lying in a pool of blood on the patio, a bloodstained 18-inch metal tent peg by her head.
The first telephone call to the emergency services was logged at 3.38pm. Records show that at 3.45 Jenkins rang a neighbour, Denise Franklin, for assistance, before making a second 999 call. While making this call, the children saw the ambulance go past the house and stop down the road, so Jenkins ran after it. The efforts of the ambulance crew were, however, in vain, and Billie-Jo was pronounced dead at 4.50.
The next day both Annie and Lottie gave video interviews to the police. Among other things, Annie said that she had spoken to Billie-Jo as they were all leaving to go to Do-It-All, and Lottie firmly recalled that the gate to the side-passage of the house was closed when they left, but open when they returned. There was a coal-bunker at the end of this side-passage, and Annie had put three tent pegs on top of it when clearing out the utility room. For an intruder entering at the back of the house these would have been the nearest weapons to hand.
One possible intruder was identified immediately. Many witnesses reported seeing a man behaving strangely in Alexandra Park, near the Jenkins home, between three and four that afternoon. The man had a long history of mental illness. Indeed, one of the witnesses was a psychiatric nurse who had treated him. One family had on another occasion reported his 'violent behaviour and threats towards [their daughter]' to the police. The social services had planned to section him the day before the murder, but had been unable to find him. After the murder the police went to see him, but he was not at home. On Wednesday 19 February, they went to see his parents. One of the officers recorded that the father 'regrets his son may have been responsible'.
After the murder, the Jenkins's house became a crime-scene and the family went to stay with friends. The police took all articles of clothing that Jenkins, Annie and Lottie had been wearing to be tested - for elimination purposes, as the family were told.
On Friday 21 February, Adrian Wain, a forensic scientist at the Lambeth laboratory in London, told Sussex police that he had discovered spots of blood, only visible under a microscope, on Siôn Jenkins's clothing. More significantly, he added that 'these spots are typical of those I would expect to find following an impact on to a surface wet with blood. The size of the spots also indicates that the force of the impact was considerable and that the wearer was close to it.'
Early on Monday 24 February Jenkins was arrested. He was given no chance to shave or even to say goodbye. He was questioned over two days, before being released on police bail the following evening. He was, he says, told that if he tried to return to his family, his children would be taken into care. Ten days earlier, Jenkins had been a respected professional man. Now, he was an outcast. He had no money, and didn't know where to go or what to do. His solicitor took him to stay overnight at a friend's house; from there he went to stay with his parents in Aberystwyth. On 13 March he returned to Hastings and was re-arrested. He again asserted his complete innocence, but by now the police had discovered that he had provided a fallacious cv when originally applying to William Parker in 1992. He had said he had been a pupil at Gordonstoun. He had not. He also said he had a degree from the University of Kent, which was not true, either. So Jenkins was charged not just with murder, but also with obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. His legal team arranged bail, a condition of which was that he had to leave the area. And so Jenkins returned to his parents in Aberystwyth. He took up sculpture again, attended church regularly, and endured the 15-month wait until the case went to trial. By now Lois had become hostile to him, and he was allowed to see their children only in sessions monitored by video cameras and supervised by social services.
The trial eventually began at Lewes Crown Court on 3 June 1998. The prosecution case was that, on returning home from Lottie's clarinet lesson, Jenkins had lost his temper and battered Billie-Jo to death. The visit to Do-It-All was, argued the Crown, a ploy Jenkins had thought up to buy himself time in which a fictional 'intruder' might have come to the house. As evidence of this, they pointed to Jenkins's circuitous route to the store, the fact that he had taken no money with him, and the added fact that in any case he didn't need white spirit because there was half-a-bottle at the back of a store cupboard.
The defence argued that this analysis ignored how disorganised family life routinely is. Aren't half-bottles of white spirit left at the back of cupboards in most houses? And don't people go out to buy a fresh bottle? Jenkins's assertion that he had thought twice about going, and had indeed turned back, had been confirmed by Annie in her video interview. She said that he had wanted to go back, but that she'd persuaded him to continue, so had it not been for her, Jenkins would not have bought himself any time at all.
The Crown contended, however, that Jenkins's attitude and conduct, both when he found Billie-Jo and when he was being questioned, were highly incriminating. Jenkins had not administered first-aid or attended properly to his dying daughter. In fact, he had seemed rather detached and, when the ambulance crew arrived, had calmly gone to sit in his MG.
Jenkins's efforts may indeed not have been those of a professional first-aider, but which of us could be guaranteed to act with the requisite calm in such circumstances? There was another factor: his two other children. He tried, he says, to prevent Annie and Lottie witnessing the full horror of what had happened to Billie-Jo, and put them in another room; so he was constantly rushing between the two hysterical children and Billie-Jo.
And at this moment of tragedy, there were two diversionary incidents. Just as Jenkins rushed to dial 999, the phone started ringing. Precious time was lost in picking up the phone and slamming it down. Then, as Jenkins was waiting for the ambulance, a colleague arrived to deliver some paperwork. Jenkins did not invite him in. Under cross-examination, Jenkins agreed that he did sit in the MG, but said that he almost immediately wondered what he was doing and got out again. An expert in psychiatric disorientation following accidents gave evidence for the defence that Jenkins's behaviour was entirely understandable for someone in a state of shock.
The crux of the prosecution case, however, was the forensic evidence, those almost invisible spots of Billie-Jo's blood found on Jenkins's clothing. There were, crucially, 48 spots in the chest area of the blue fleece jacket Jenkins had been wearing, 21 on his left sleeve and three on his right sleeve. The Crown argued, in line with Adrian Wain's early conclusions, that the only explanation for these spots was that Jenkins himself was the murderer.
Defence experts vigorously disputed this and insisted that Billie-Jo had expired the blood on to Jenkins's clothing in a fine mist when he attended to her as she lay dying. The prosecution responded by asserting that Billie-Jo would not have been capable of breathing out a spray of blood and that, even if this had happened, the blood-spray would not have reached the height at which the spattering occurred on Jenkins's clothing. Yet the defence pointed out that it would have been extraordinary in a crime this brutal for the assailant to have escaped with only almost invisible bloodstaining. There was a great deal of blood at the scene - over the dining-room floor, the patio, the wall and the surrounding trellis - so why was there so little on Jenkins himself? Jenkins was right-handed, yet there were only three blood specks on his right sleeve. Every time prosecution scientists attempted to replicate the attack (using a pig's head covered in blood) they ended up with significant bloodstaining on the striking arm of the assailant. Further, forensic scientists know that in attacks of this kind there are usually tell-tale drip-down blood spots on the back of the murderer's clothing, caused by the killer raising the weapon again and again. There were none on Jenkins's clothing. Defence scientists also suggested that given the savagery of the attack there would have been fragments of brain and body tissue on his clothing.
The blood on the clothing was the kernel of the case. The submissions concerning it were, however, obscured at trial by technical disputes between defence and prosecution experts about matters such as residual lung capacity and volume and speed of expiration. Indeed, the Appeal Court subsequently acknowledged that the terms 'minute volume' and 'peak flow' (concerning breathing capacity) had become muddled. This was a confusion between experts which had, the Appeal Court noted, 'misled the judge' and 'may have misled the jury'. The jurors may have been left with the impression that only a very fit girl, and certainly not a dying girl, could have the energy to expel those microscopic blood droplets. For example, when giving evidence for the prosecution, the paediatrician Professor David Southall told them he 'had no doubt that it was impossible for Billie-Jo in her state to expel 2.3 litres of air' - the amount the prosecution said would have been necessary to explain the blood found on Jenkins's jacket.
At no stage did the prosecution advance a concrete motive: in a murder trial, though, the Crown does not need to show evidence of motive. There may, though, have been an undercurrent of opinion that there was a sexual connection between the two: Billie-Jo, after all, was an attractive and precocious girl. The prosecution QC asked Jenkins when Billie-Jo's periods began, and pointedly described the relationship between them as 'complex'. 'This idea was uppermost in everyone's minds,' agrees John Haines, one of the defence barristers. 'It was the most obvious suggestion for a possible motive. We said the prosecution should not even have hinted at anything; the sexual innuendo can be very persuasive. In the closing speech, we reminded the jury that the prosecution had opened the case on the basis that there was no motive, that the medical evidence was that that there was no sexual or physical abuse of Billie-Jo, and that there was just no foundation for those suggestions.'
But this was in the closing speech. When Jenkins entered the witness-box, many were bewildered when Anthony Scrivener QC, Jenkins's counsel, asked Jenkins just one question: 'Did you kill Billie-Jo?' Jenkins replied simply. 'No, I didn't.' Haines conceded that this had been a 'difficult forensic decision', taken because of the unusually full account Jenkins had given to police of his actions that day - which had already been read out in court. But it meant that Jenkins was not led through his evidence by his own counsel. And when cross-examined by the prosecution, he appeared unsure of himself.
The defence was also disinclined to use the 'alternative suspect' evidence. This was partly because there was some confusion in the timings of the sightings of the man in Alexandra Park - even though the bulk of evidence indicated that he was seen either just before or just after the vital time.
The jury deliberated overnight, but on Thursday 2 July returned with a unanimous verdict of guilty. Jenkins was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Apart from the scientific evidence, there are two factors that underpin the defence case. The first is the timing. The original 999 call was logged at 3.38; Jenkins dropped off his daughter's friend no earlier than 3.15. After accounting for everything that needed to be fitted in to that maximum 23-minute period, there were, said the defence, at most three minutes available to Jenkins to commit the murder. In those three minutes, he needed to work himself up into a violent temper, bludgeon Billie-Jo to death, clean himself up afterwards and calm down so completely that his other two children noticed nothing untoward.
The second is the fact that Jenkins insists Annie and Lottie were with him throughout. Their initial statements corroborated his account. That Annie said she spoke to Billie-Jo as she left the house indicated that Billie-Jo was alive after the time when Jenkins was supposed to have murdered her. This might seem to make the case for Jenkins irrefutable. Yet he was convicted, and his children's videoed statements were not brought up in court. The reason for this was the change in his relationship with his family.
After the police had received Wain's early report, with its incriminating interpretation of the blood spots, one of the officers reported that Jenkins had continued to maintain his innocence; the officer then wrote: 'Told them to feed into Mum.' In the course of a two-hour interview on 25 February, the police repeatedly told Lois that scientific evidence proved her husband had committed the crime. The next day she told police that she felt as if she were 'hallucinating' and that what she had heard had 'freaked' her. In an earlier statement to the police Lois had made no mention of Siôn Jenkins ever having been violent. But now she made a second statement in which she alleged that he had hit her on a number of occasions. Yet, according to this statement, the major source of marital disharmony had nothing to do with violence: 'In 1995 the friction between myself and Siôn hit an all-time high,' she explained. 'Siôn announced that he would be standing as the Conservative candidate in the by-elections for the West St Leonard's ward. I was surprised and upset. Neither of us had been involved in politics, but to stand as a Conservative went against everything that I thought we believed in.'
Worse was to follow for Siôn Jenkins: on 20 March the police spoke to the four children in the presence of Lois and told them of 'strong evidence' that their father had killed their sister. The police believed that Jenkins had 'reconstructed' Annie's testimony by speaking to her privately on the night of the murder (he had had no opportunity to speak to Lottie alone). The defence still believed the children's original testimony was accurate and truthful but felt that as a result of what the police told them on 20 March, any evidence the girls gave in court might be contaminated. The trial judge criticised the police for what happened on 20 March, and the Appeal Court judges added that they 'would be inclined to express our concerns about this aspect of the investigation rather less circumspectly'.
Certainly, the police treatment of Lois and the children had devastating consequences for Siôn. His defence team felt that, despite the original video recordings, they could not call the children as witnesses at trial. In any case, Siôn himself, who believed he would be acquitted, did not wish them to be subjected to such an ordeal. He was instead found guilty.
In December 1999 Jenkins appealed, and lost. (He has also been refused permission to go to the House of Lords.) At appeal, the judges were persuaded by such points as the fact that Jenkins 'was the last known adult to see the deceased alive, and the first known adult to see her dead'; and that his explanation for the trip to Do-It-All 'was itself unusual in that he went without money by a circuitous route to buy an item he did not need'. The scientific evidence was, the Appeal Court felt, conclusive.
At appeal, the defence had introduced fresh evidence of experiments showing that a mere three drops of blood could be fragmented into 2,000 droplets and could be caused by an exhalation which was 'brief, inaudible and invisible'. With the nose angled slightly upwards, the droplets could reach a height of 85cm above the ground. The judges conceded that such evidence was 'relevant and credible', before dismissing the appeal. One of the points that will be made when the case is next argued - Jenkins is hoping to take the case to the European Court - is that this judgment conflicts with two more recent cases: in these, Appeal Court judges, having found that new evidence is relevant and credible, have said that it is not their place to second-guess what a jury might have thought had it heard the relevant and credible evidence, and that 'the only proper course' was to quash the convictions and order re-trials. Anthony Scrivener, Jenkins's barrister, believes that the mistakes in the scientific evidence presented at trial were critical. 'The prosecution led the experts astray,' he said. 'That was the biggest point in the case; the jury never actually heard the right expert medical evidence. The Court of Appeal agreed it was a terrible mistake, but then said, we've heard the fresh evidence, and the conviction is OK. That had never been done before in jurisprudence.'
Meanwhile, the defence has no idea of the whereabouts of the suspect the police first thought of. The day before the murder, however, he had been in Debenhams. Billie-Jo was also in Debenhams that day, choosing the trainers she was going to buy on the Saturday. Staff there thought of this man as a 'weirdo'. Several times the previous week he had bought a spoon, only to ask for a refund the following day. That Friday he left behind some crazed writings in the form of a letter to the governor of the World Bank in which he referred to paedophilia and the protection of children.
After the murder, his psychiatrist refused to allow him to be questioned by police, explaining that his client 'was floridly psychotic at the time of the murder of Billie-Jo and could not remember anything that happened on the night [sic] the murder took place.'
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