Family's despair at lonely death of drifter - Crime - UK - The Independent

Family's despair at lonely death of drifter

Jennifer Kiely enjoyed her life as a mother, bringing up her young family with her partner. She took her children to the park and was proud of her home in Orpington, Kent.

Jennifer Kiely enjoyed her life as a mother, bringing up her young family with her partner. She took her children to the park and was proud of her home in Orpington, Kent.

But shortly after the birth of her third child, a boy, her life started to go wrong. That was 11 years ago.

Last month, her partially burnt body was found in a shelter on the seafront close to Beachy Head in Eastbourne, Sussex. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 16 times.

When police began to investigate the background of the 35-year-old, they found that, on an official form, under the heading of family, "no next of kin" had been inserted.

Ms Kiely's story, up until her violent death, is typical of many other homeless adults suffering from mental illness.

Around eight years ago, she was diagnosed with a serious illness, thought most likely to have been schizophrenia, which was becoming worse and had left her delusional and withdrawn. She eventually split up with her partner, a computer specialist, who was given the custody of their children, two boys and a girl. Shortly afterwards, she vanished from their home and from their lives.

Despite numerous attempts by her family to trace Ms Kiely, she had made no contact with them for the past six years. After leaving Kent, Ms Kiely went to Brighton, where she sold The Big Issue magazine. In September 2003, she made her way to Canterbury and stayed in a sheltered-housing scheme run by the Scrine Foundation.

Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell, the chief executive of the organisation, recalled: "She was co-operative. She was not aggressive or angry and kept herself very, very clean - she defied the stereotype of the homeless.''

In the meantime, her former partner and children, now a 15-year-old daughter and two sons aged 12 and 11, had tried in vain to get a message to her to say that she was still loved.

Ms Kiely left Canterbury in September 2004 and made her way to Eastbourne. Largely built in the late 19th century as a resort for the Victorian upper classes, the town has split into two distinct parts. It remains a fashionable tourist resort and longer-term destination for young, London families looking for a change in lifestyle and cheaper housing, but it also has another side. Large housing estates, bedsit conversions and hostels for asylum-seekers provide a stark contrast to the upmarket image. It was into this second world that Ms Kiely moved.

Police said that while in Eastbourne Ms Kiely was befriended by a woman who let her sleep in her house and take a bath, but that she regularly chose to sleep in the open. She was often seen on the seafront late at night. She is not thought to have had a drink or drugs problem but she was considered to be extremely vulnerable.

Her former partner, however, says the image of an unwanted rough sleeper is unfair. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: "She was a young, attractive and loving lady with children and family that are missing her and not just a homeless bag lady that will not be missed.''

He continued: "She was a caring and friendly person who was left in a vulnerable position due to being affected by an illness. I wish that the family could have found her before this happened."

The police are still unsure what happened early on Saturday 22 January. They know that earlier she had taken a bath at the house where she often stayed, and then went into town. At about 1am she was walking along the seafront when she was probably confronted by her killer. Her body was found in the early hours by council workers in a thatched, half-timbered shelter overlooking the sea. Her killer built a bonfire in the shelter and set fire to the body in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Two local men have been arrested but both have been released without charge.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony O'Donnell, heading the murder hunt, said: "She was a housewife and mum of three young kids. They seemed to be her life and then she developed this mental health problem and eventually lost everything."

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week