Date: 15 Feb 1997
Billie-Jo Jenkins was murdered at her home at about 3.30pm on 15 February 1997.
She was beaten over the head with an 18-inch long iron tent peg which was found lying by her head. Her skull had been shattered on the left side by multiple blows. It was said that she had been struck at least five times.
Her father was convicted of her murder on 2 July 1998, but his conviction was later quashed on 16 July 2004 after two appeals and a retrial.
He said that Billie-Jo Jenkins must have been murdered while he and two of his daughters had gone out to a hardware shop.
Billie-Jo Jenkins was adopted by her foster-family in 1993. The family already had four daughters and Billie-Jo Jenkins had been a school-friend of one of the daughters. Billie-Jo Jenkins had been put into foster care when she was 9-years old after her father was imprisoned and her mother found that she could not raise her alone.
The foster-father was the deputy headmaster of William Parker boys’ comprehensive school in Hastings.
The day of the murder was a Saturday at the end of the school half-term holidays and Billie-Jo Jenkins, her foster-father and a foster-sister had started to do some household tasks.
At the time the foster-mother had taken two of the children for a walk at the beach. At the same time another one of the children had gone off for a clarinet lesson with another friend.
The foster-father said that his daughter was set to cleaning out a storeroom and that during that process she had taken three metal tent pegs that had previously been used to secure an old garden swing out and put them on the coal bunker in the garden. He said that whilst she did that Billie-Jo Jenkins was sweeping the patio.
Later on, the foster-father went off to fetch the daughter that had had the clarinet lesson, taking the other daughter with him and leaving Billie-Jo Jenkins to paint the patio doors at the back of the house, and on the way back had dropped off one of her friends at her home, the time of which was given as being between 3.15pm and 3.20pm.
The foster-father said that when he got back home he realised that he needed some white spirit and so took his two daughters off with him to the hardware shop, Do-It-All. However, it was said that when they got there the step-father realised that he had forgotten to take any means of payment and so returned home, and when they went into the house they found Billie-Jo Jenkins lying in a pool of blood on the patio.
It was heard that there was a small window after the foster-father and the two children had returned from the clarinet lesson in their father's MG car during which the foster-father would have been alone with Billie-Jo Jenkins as he went in and they waited for him outside. The prosecution said that it was enough time, about three minutes, for him to fly into a rage, beat Billie-Jo Jenkins to death, regain his composure and then come back out and face his two younger children and go off to the DIY store.
When they had got back from the DIY store it was heard that it was one of the daughters that had first gone into the house and found Billie-Jo Jenkins. The daughter said that she was the first to go into the back and that when she saw Billie-Jo Jenkins she called out 'Dad!'.
The foster-father said that when he went to where Billie-Jo Jenkins was lying he crouched down beside her and then ushered the other two children away into the playroom. He said that he then examined Billie-Jo Jenkins more closely and then called 999 for an ambulance, which was recorded as having been made at 3.38pm, after which he called a neighbour. It was heard that he then called 999 again after the neighbour suggested that he call them again.
When the foster-father was questioned by the police he said, 'Her head was limp. She was totally covered in blood. I was horrified. I released my grip and ran back into the dining room. I knew what had happened was not an accident. I went into the hall to call an ambulance'.
The prosecution said that there were two telephone lines in the house and that after discovering Billie-Jo Jenkins lying dead or injured the foster-father had told the police that the phone in the dining room was ringing and that he had tried to stop it. The prosecution asked, 'What was he doing trying to adjust the ringing tone while his daughter was lying seriously injured on the patio?'. They said that the foster-father had then said that he didn't then call for an ambulance but instead went back outside where he told a friend that he had tried to revive Billie-Jo Jenkins, but the prosecution said that that was a lie and that he had not tried to revive Billie-Jo Jenkins.
The court was played the two 999 calls that the foster-father had made in which in one of them he had been told to feel for Billie-Jo Jenkins's pulse and to put her into the recovery position, but the prosecution said that he had done neither as when the ambulance arrived Billie-Jo Jenkins was found to still be lying on her front. They also claimed that when the foster-father had been asked whether Billie-Jo Jenkins was still breathing he had said, 'I don't know, I have not looked'. They also stated that in the second 999 call the foster father had been asked again whether Billie-Jo Jenkins was breathing, and that he had replied, 'I can't say'.
However, it was heard that later, when questioned by the police, the foster-father had said, 'I think I crouched down next to Billie and felt her neck. I became aware that her forehead was misshapen. Her eye was swollen as if someone had punched her. I noticed a bubble from her nose. I realised she was still alive'.
It was said then that the foster-father tried to shake the blood off of his hands and that he then went and washed it off before returning to Billie-Jo Jenkins at which point he told police, 'She still felt warm. I pulled my hand away and stood up. I was getting frantic because the ambulance still had not arrived'.
A neighbour who was by that time in the house said that she then became aware that there was part of a bin liner inside Billie-Jo Jenkins's nostril and said that when she pulled it out blood poured out.
Soon after, the family went off to stay with neighbours while the police carried out forensic work at the house.
At the trial the prosecution said that the foster-father had had a day of frustration and irritation and that after picking up his daughter from her clarinet lesson he had come home to find Billie-Jo Jenkins painting the patio doors and had become instantly enraged because of the quality of her work or because she had been playing the radio too loudly or a combination of those reasons and that he had then picked up one of the tent pegs and in a fit of uncontrollable fury had beaten her to death.
Another aspect of the evidence against the foster-father was bloodstaining on his clothes which the prosecution had said indicated that he had been the murderer. They said that there were 72 microscopic blood spots on his fleece jacket, 76 microscopic blood spots on his trousers and 10 microscopic blood spots on his left shoe. The prosecution said that whoever had attacked Billie-Jo Jenkins would have been standing very close to her and that the closer the attacker the smaller the microscopic blood spots would have been which would have been caused by a mist produced by the repeated blows to Billie-Jo Jenkins head.
There was also one blood splash on the foster-father's trouser leg.
The prosecution also stated that:
However, the defence stated that whoever had beaten Billie-Jo Jenkins to death would have been covered in blood. They said that it was obvious that the murderer would have been standing very close to Billie-Jo Jenkins and pointed out that the blood had been splashed all over the place including the patio doors and the nearby trellis fencing.
They also stated that the blood found on the foster-fathers clothes might have been caused when he had cradled Billie-Jo Jenkins after having first found her injured. They said that the microscopic blood spots might have been caused as Billie-Jo Jenkins had breathed out whilst dying and said that as he had held her he had seen a bubble of blood coming out of her nose. However, the prosecution stated that there were no microscopic blood spots from misting on the clothes of other people that had come into contact with Billie-Jo Jenkins such as the neighbour or the paramedics, although the defence added that both the neighbour and the paramedics didn't arrive until minutes later. It was also said that the foster-father had not said in his original statement that Billie-Jo Jenkins had been still breathing when he had found her. The prosecution also said that it would not have been possible for Billie-Jo Jenkins to have still been alive 15 minutes after receiving her injuries and to have still been breathing, the state in which the foster-father said he had found her.
The defence also said that the murderer would also probably have had incriminating white paint stains on his clothes and that apart from a single white paint stain on the foster-father's fleece jacket that Billie-Jo Jenkins had previously laughed about there was nothing. The defence stated that it didn't make sense that if the foster-father had murdered Billie-Jo Jenkins that he would not have had any obvious blood or paint stains on him.
It was also noted that that it was the original police theory that the tent peg would have been in easy reach of anyone coming into the house from the back. It was also noted that the tent peg was bloodstained at both ends reinforcing the probability that whoever had held it would have had bloodstains on their hands and cuffs even though there was no blood on the foster-fathers hands and cuffs.
The defence stated that the foster-father would also have not have had time to have committed the murder, noting that there could only have been a few minutes during which he could have done so.
The defence stated that if the foster-father had dropped of his daughters friend between 3.15pm and 3.20pm and that the first emergency call that was made by the foster-father was at 3.38pm and assuming that it would have taken him 4 minutes and 30 seconds to drive home that he would not have had time to have murdered Billie-Jo Jenkins and to have made the round trip to the hardware shop which was estimated to have taken about 15 minutes.
The defence said that he would also not have had time to dispose of any incriminating evidence or to have regained his normal disposition, assuming that he had lost control in beating Billie-Jo Jenkins to death with the tent peg.
The defence also noted that there were no fingerprints on the tent peg which was found near her head and it also stated that if he had lost control and attacked her that the tent peg, which was said to have been on the coal bunker would have been some distance away and not the first thing that would have come to hand.
The prosecution had stated that the foster-father was a scheming, cold and callous man and that he was capable of violence and then carefully covering his tracks, but the defence said that if that was so, he would not have left the tent peg nearby to be found in case it had his fingerprints on it.
The defence also noted that the foster-fathers other two children had been with him throughout and that their statements corroborated his story.
The defence also noted that when the paramedics had arrived, one of them reported seeing two muddy footprints on Billie-Jo Jenkins's legs stating that 'I got the impression that someone had stood on her', but that no photos of her were taken and the marks were lost when she was moved. It was also said that the foster-fathers shoes were not muddy.
The defence also noted that it was quite normal for people to forget they already had materials like white spirit in the house from previous work and to buy more. It also stated that if the foster-father had gone out to the hardware shop to buy time and create a window of opportunity he could have done that more effectively by remembering his money and actually buying some white spirits.
The defence also noted that the family had experienced a number of incidents involving prowlers including having seen a person staring at them from the park opposite, the foster-father disturbing a man lurking in their back garden, the family thinking that the side gate had been left swinging open even though they thought they had deliberately shut it and another incident in which an attempted break-in had been made and a pain of glass in the patio doors had been broken which had resulted in the parents bring so concerned that they had security lights installed. The defence also referred to an article in the Guardian Newspaper dated 18 February 1997 which stated that, 'A number of residents had recently raised concerns about prowlers'.
It was also noted by the defence that there had been other suspects including a man with a known psychiatric history that had been reported as having been seen behaving suspiciously on that Saturday afternoon although it was later reported that he had had an alibi.
The Independent reported that there was one other suspect that might have been the man noted above with the known psychiatric history or another suspect. He was said to have had a rather confused conversation with the owner of a guest house whose front door he had rang before going off in the direction of town which would have taken him past Billie-Jo Jenkins house. It was reported that whilst he was in police custody he had behaved strangely and had once been found lying in the foetal position in his cell. It was also reported that he was found to have had part of a plastic bag held up to his nose and that two more fragments of plastic were found in his underpants. It was reported that it was significant because when Billie-Jo Jenkins was examined she was found to have had part of a black plastic bin bag stuffed deep inside one of her nostrils. However, the police said that all the other witnesses who had seen the man, other than the one that had seen him in the park, said that they had seen him in locations at least 15 minutes away from the scene of the crime. The police also said that forensic tests also ruled him out. The police later described the man as a red herring.
It was also reported that Billie-Jo Jenkins had told her friends in the weeks before her murder that someone had been following her.
It was also noted that the house next door had been derelict and boarded up for 18-months and it was thought that someone could have been watching the girls from there and had then approached Billie-Jo Jenkins after seeing the rest of the family leave the house.
After the foster-father was acquitted he said that he thought that the clues to solving the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins were in the 10,000 pages of evidence taken by the police. He also said that he recalled speaking to a man in the hallway of his house about an hour after the murder who he thought was a plain clothes policeman but who he said later could not be accounted for or identified and said that he thought that that man might have been the murderer. He described him as a dark-haired man.
When the foster-father came out of the court after being acquitted he accused the police of being, 'wilfully blind and incompetent' on the court steps. He was then shortly afterwards attacked by two of Billie-Jo Jenkins's aunts who kicked and punched him.
One of the aunts later said that she would bring a civil case against the foster-father after they said that the judge had not allowed evidence to be heard in court that was alleged to show that bloodstains on the foster-fathers clothes had also contained tiny fragments of Billie-Jo Jenkins's bone.
Also, after the foster-father was acquitted, his wife carried out an interview with a national newspaper in which she described her husband, the foster-father convicted for Billie-Jo Jenkins's murder, as a liar with a controlling nature and said that he had started to physically beat her in the first years of their marriage adding that he had used a stick to inflict corporal punishment on their daughters and had had frequent mood swings. She said that she had started to suspect her husband of carrying out the murder about four days after. She said, 'I can recall with clarity the look in his eyes as he told the children, 'Billie's dead'. It had no trace of emotion. I woke up in the middle of the night as he turned over in bed and it dawned on me it could have been him. I lay there terrified, thinking it must be him and if it wasn't him, at least it could have been him'. She said that her testimony was ruled inadmissible by the court along with her claims that her husband had had a sexual encounter with a teenage girl who bore a strong resemblance to Billie-Jo Jenkins. The foster-mother has since moved to Tasmania.
Billie-Jo Jenkins aunt later suggested that the murderer might have been a rapist known as the M25 Rapist, who has since died, although she said that she was not pointing the finger but asked the police to look into any links. However, the Sussex Police said that they were not linking the enquiries.