Billie-Jo's mother flees court in tears

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The Independent Online
THE mother of the murdered teenager Billie-Jo Jenkins fled the court where her daughter's murder trial was being heard yesterday as video evidence of the killing was shown.

Debbie Woods was shepherded in tears from Lewes Crown Court, East Sussex, as close-up footage revealed the extent of the injuries inflicted on her foster daughter.

Sion Jenkins, Billie-Jo's foster father, who is accused of her murder, had already asked to be excused and was returned to court cells before the video was shown.

Members of the jury at Lewes Crown Court looked visibly shocked at the four-minutes of footage showing Billie-Jo's body on the patio of the family's home in Hastings, East Sussex. One woman juror was unable to watch the tape and two others were close to tears.

The teenager's natural father, Bill Jenkins, who is no relation to Sion, left the court before the video evidence was shown following a warning from the judge, Mr Justice Gage, that it might prove distressing.

The jury heard yesterday that the surgeon called to examine the body considered the murder the most brutal he had encountered. Dr Zbigniew Ludwig, a Sussex police surgeon, said in a statement: "I have had 26 years' experience as a police surgeon, and this was ... the saddest and most brutal murder I've ever attended."

Billie-Jo, 13, was killed as she painted patio doors at the home of her foster family with whom she had lived for five years. A post-mortem examination showed her skull had been split.

The ambulancemen Christopher Burton and Francis Radford said Billie-Jo showed no signs of life when they arrived at the Jenkins' home.

Mr Burton told how, at the scene, he had noticed two damp impressions like footprints nearby. There were also two marks, like the balls of feet, on the front upper thighs of her trousers when her body was turned over. She was found lying face down.

Mr Radford said the paintbrush Billie-Jo had been using to paint the patio doors was still in her hand and a spiked iron bar, the alleged murder weapon, next to her body.

Graham Towse, a neighbour, said Sion Jenkins seemed "calm and a little pale" at the time. But his eldest daughter, Annie, then 12, was "very flustered, very red in the face".

The first police officer to arrive at the scene described his shock on seeing Billie-Jo's body. Constable Darren Bruce said: "The original call [was] that someone had found their daughter who had had a fall and there was some blood." The scene that greeted him and a colleague at the Jenkins' address "was the last thing we were expecting to find".

He said that standing in the dining room he could see photographs of the four girls in the Jenkins family and also of the teenager whose body lay in front of him on the patio. "It was shocking, horrific," he said.

PC Bruce said Billie-Jo's skull bore a "massive gaping hole going right down through to the brain and pools of blood over her face and hair".

He said Sion Jenkins had told him that he and his eldest daughter, Annie, had left the house shortly before 3pm to collect another daughter, Lottie, from a music lesson. Although the court has heard that Mr Jenkins and his daughters returned to the house straight after the lesson, at the time, Mr Jenkins told PC Bruce that they had not returned until 3.30pm.

It was PC Bruce who broke the news to Jenkins that Billie-Jo was dead. "He appeared stunned when I told him," the constable said.

The trial continues.

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