Billie-Jo Jenkins died minutes after attack, court told

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Billie-Jo Jenkins was battered around the head five times with an iron bar and died within minutes, an Old Bailey jury was told.

Sion Jenkins, a former deputy headteacher, went on trial yesterday for the second time this year, accused of murdering his 13-year-old foster daughter.

Mr Jenkins, 48, denies killing Billie-Jo, who was found dead at the family's home in Hastings, East Sussex, in February 1997.

In 1998, Mr Jenkins was convicted and jailed for life, but was released on appeal last year. During a retrial which ended in July, the jury failed to agree a verdict. The six men and six women on the new jury were told by the judge that it was a completely fresh trial.

Mr Jenkins, who now lives in Lymington, Hampshire, arrived at court with his second wife, Christina, an art dealer.

Nicholas Hilliard, prosecuting, said it was the Crown's case that Mr Jenkins was the killer.

He said: "She had been murdered at her own home ­ a place where she should have been safe. She had been attacked with an iron bar. She had been struck at least five times and sustained severe head injuries.

"It does not take a moment to hit someone with an iron bar and not many more to hit them several forceful blows. If she did not die instantly, she could not have lived more than a few minutes. It's a mercy she was unconscious."

Mr Hilliard said the iron tent peg had been placed in the patio earlier in the day by one of the other children whilst she was clearing out a utility room. It had been found near Billy-Jo's body after she was discovered by Mr Jenkins and two of his daughters when they returned from a DIY store.

Mr Hilliard said Mr Jenkins was the last adult to see Billy-Jo alive and the first adult to find her body.

The jury were told traces of Billy-Jo's blood were found on Mr Jenkins' clothing. They would have to consider whether it got there when she was attacked or after he discovered the body, Mr Hilliard said.

He said Mr Jenkins had failed at first to tell police he had been inside the house that afternoon before going to the DIY store.

Mr Jenkins later said he had gone into the dining room to turn down Billy-Jo's music but had not noticed her on the other side of the patio doors.

"How did he come to give the earlier different version to police? Had he just forgotten or was he lying about it?" asked Mr Hilliard.

Mr Jenkins had said that as far as he was aware, Billy-Jo was alive and well when he left the house to buy white spirits. He had claimed someone else must have come to the house and murdered Billy-Jo, the court was told.

The trial continues.