Murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins
Billie-Jo was brought up in East London. Her father, Bayard 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 East Sussex coast, where she attended Helenswood School.
On 15 February 1997 she was murdered at the family home. Siôn Jenkins was charged with the murder and later convicted, but always maintained his innocence of the crime. An appeal in 1999 against his conviction failed, but after a second appeal in August 2004 it was quashed by a court as unsafe and he was released on bail pending a retrial. The juries in two retrials were unable to reach verdicts, and a not guilty verdict was recorded in 2006.
Legal proceedings against Sion Jenkins
On 15 February 1997 Billie-Jo was battered over the head with an iron tent peg whilst working alone in the garden painting patio doors at the family home in Hastings, East Sussex, the rest of the family purportedly being out of the property at the time.
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 in May 2003 following a two-year investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Jenkins' case was referred back to the Court of Appeal. The basis for the referral outlined in the Commission's Statement of Reasons was that: 'There is evidence, not before the jury, that suggests Mr Jenkins could not have committed the murder'  The 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 experts stated that the microscopic spray was released from Billie-Jo's airways as Jenkins moved her. 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.
Around the time of the murder, a mentally ill man was seen in the street and area. He was taken into custody, but considered to be unable to be questioned. Siôn Jenkins acknowledged 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.
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".
- "Wrong again: Siôn Jenkins is innocent" by Bob Woffinden, New Statesman, 11 July 1998
- Statement of Reasons: CCRC Ref: 00226/2001/Jenkins
- Jenkins cleared in Billie-Jo case, BBC News, 9 February 2006
- "Allegations cost foster father his family and career" by Sandra Laville and Laura Smith, The Guardian, 10 February 2006
- Gray, Sadie (9 February 2006). "Profile: the contradictions of Sion Jenkins - Times Online". timesonline.co.uk (London). Retrieved 27 December 2010.
- "Daughter weeps in Billie-Jo murder appeal". Daily Mail (London).
- Friends unveil Billie-Jo memorial