Billie-Jo Jenkins – Hastings – 1997

Billie-Jo Margaret Jenkins (29 March 1983–15 February 1997) was an English girl who was murdered at the age of 13. The case gained widespread media attention and remains unsolved to this day.

Billie-Jo was brought up in east London. Her birth father, Bill Jenkins, was imprisoned and her mother was unable to cope on her own, so Billie-Jo was placed in foster care from the age of nine with an unrelated family, Siôn and Lois Jenkins, coincidentally having the same surname. She moved with the family to Hastings on the Sussex coast, where she attended Helenswood School.

On 15 February 1997 she was brutally murdered at home. Siôn Jenkins was charged with the murder and later convicted, but always maintained that he was innocent. An appeal in 1999 against his conviction failed, but after a second appeal in August 2004 his conviction was quashed as unsafe and he was released on bail pending a retrial. The juries in two retrials were unable to reach majority verdicts and he was officially declared not guilty in 2006

Legal proceedings against her foster father

On 15 February 1997 Billie-Jo was battered over the head with an iron tent peg, while painting patio doors at the family home in Hastings, East Sussex. She was alone in the garden. The family were out.

Siôn Jenkins has always denied killing her. He told police that he found her in a pool of blood on the patio when he returned from a shopping trip with two of his daughters, Annie and Charlotte (“Lottie”). He became the third police suspect following the discovery of 158 microscopic blood spots on his clothing. During an intensive two-hour interview with Siôn’s wife Lois, the police told her that they were sure that he was the murderer, as they said that the blood spots proved his guilt.

The police charged Siôn Jenkins with the murder and he was convicted in July 1998. Investigative journalist Bob Woffinden believed that it was a miscarriage of justice. An appeal in 1999 failed, but a second appeal in August 2004 was successful: the Court of Appeal quashed his original conviction as unsafe and ordered a retrial, with Jenkins being released on bail.

At the retrial, some experts stated that the 158 blood spots could have come from Billie-Jo’s airways as Jenkins tended to Billie-Jo. The jury was unable to come to a majority verdict after 39 hours of deliberating. A second retrial was likewise unable to reach a majority verdict, and at the Old Bailey in London, on 9 February 2006 Siôn Jenkins was officially declared not guilty. The Crown Prosecution Service indicated that no further retrials of Jenkins would be sought, and he was formally acquitted.

The police investigation, trials and appeals are estimated to have cost £10m. Seven hundred witness statements were taken by the police, jurors spent 36 days deliberating in three trials, and Jenkins spent 11 days in the witness box giving evidence.

Present situation

As of 2010 Siôn Jenkins was living in Southsea, Portsmouth, with his new wife and her son. He was studying for a doctorate in criminology at Portsmouth University.

On 10 August 2010 it was revealed that The Ministry of Justice had refused Siôn Jenkins compensation claim for wrongful imprisonment – such payment is awarded only when a person is shown to be “clearly innocent”

Potential suspects

Around the time of the murder, a mentally ill man was seen in the area, but he was discounted as a suspect, as the police concluded that he had an alibi. Siôn Jenkins himself claimed that he and his wife Lois were “so worried about prowlers and break-ins in the area where they lived that they had security lights and window locks fitted to their home”. Siôn’s daughter Charlotte stated on video that a side gate may have been open when they returned.

In his 2008 book The Murder of Billie-Jo, written with Woffinden, Siôn Jenkins suggested that a man that he met in his house soon after the murder may have been the murderer, having hidden in Jenkins’ house and then slipped away, even though the man was well-dressed and did not appear to be covered in blood

April 2012 - The family of murdered schoolgirl Billie-Jo Jenkins have called for the police to investigate the possibility she was killed by M25 rapist Antoni Imiela. Imiela, who is serving seven life sentences following a string of vicious sex attacks around the M25, lived near the home which 13-year-old Billy Jo shared with her foster father at the time of her murder

Sion Jenkins’ family home in Hastings where she was murdered. Imeila lived 20 miles away and had several friends and aquaitances in the Sussex town

Billie-Jo had revealed to friends she was being stalked by a man wearing a leather jacket from December 1996. According to Imiela’s neigbours, the killer wore a black leather jacket at the same time. Imiela, who was known to have been a sex offender since 1987, lived 20 miles away from Billie-Jo’s home and had friends living in Hastings at the time she was murdered.

He was reportedly obsessed with girls around Billie-Jo’s age and often used improvised weapons in his violent attacks. Billie Jo was bludgeoned to death with an 18in iron tent spike. In addition Imiela once placed a bin liner over the head of one of his victims and a small piece of bin liner was discovered in Billie-Jo’s nostrils.

Memorial seat

On 19 January 2008, in Alexandra Park, Hastings, a memorial seat made from a locally felled oak tree by local artist Joc Hare, was dedicated to the memory of Billie-Jo. The first few words on the seat read, “Side by side or miles apart, friends are close to the heart”