I did not brainwash my daughters, says ex-wife of Jenkins

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The Independent Online

The former wife of Sion Jenkins, the teacher convicted of murdering his foster daughter, yesterday denied in court that she had "brainwashed" two of her daughters into believing their father was a killer.

The former wife of Sion Jenkins, the teacher convicted of murdering his foster daughter, yesterday denied in court that she had "brainwashed" two of her daughters into believing their father was a killer.

Lois Jenkins was giving evidence for the first time against her former husband, who is attempting to have his conviction overturned at the Court of Appeal in London.

Mrs Jenkins denied lying to police about statements she said that two of her daughters gave following the murder of their foster sister, Billie-Jo Jenkins, 13, at their home in Hastings, East Sussex, in 1997.

Jenkins sat in the dock yesterday as Richard Camden Pratt QC, for the Crown, put to his former wife: "It has been suggested that you brainwashed Annie and Lottie into believing their father was a murderer. Did you try to do that?" "Absolutely not. Never," she replied.

Mrs Jenkins, 43, said she hardly ever discussed Billie-Jo's death with the girls, who were with their father on the day of murder, before his trial in 1998. Mr Camden Pratt continued: "It's suggested that you were so frightened that your husband would return to the house that you chose to make up things that were suggested were coming from the children in order to protect yourself." She said this was untrue, and added: "I was really frightened of the children telling me things. I realised the children needed to form their own opinions, as did I."

The girls "chopped and changed" their minds as to whether they wanted to see their father after the murder because they were on an "emotional roller-coaster", she said.

She also told the court about the ordeal of having to cope with the trial and her foster daughter's murder. Choking back tears in the witness box, Mrs Jenkins said they dealt with it by trying to do normal things such as going to school or going for a McDonald's. She added: "I spoke to some people who had had similar dilemmas in their lives and they advised me not to run away from it."

Mrs Jenkins, 43, divorced her husband after his conviction and now lives in Tasmania with a new partner. She was called as a witness by the Crown in its opposition to the attempt by Jenkins to clear his name.

Jenkins, 46, has been serving a life jail sentence since his conviction at Lewes Crown Court for battering his foster daughter to death with a metal tent spike as she was painting a patio door at their home on 15 February 1997. It was alleged that, during a three-minute visit to the house, Jenkins had an argument with Billie-Jo, lost his temper, hit her over the head up to 10 times and then drove off on a shopping trip with Charlotte and Annie.

In one of Jenkins's grounds of appeal, it is claimed that his wife gave misleading information to the police to the effect that the two girls were hostile to their father and that this deterred defence lawyers from calling them as witnesses. The defence claims that the girls' evidence would show that Jenkins did not have time to carry out the murder.

Mrs Jenkins was asked by the defence counsel, Clare Montgomery QC, about a statement she made that Annie felt it was "unusual" for Billie-Jo to have been left alone at the house. She told the court that about a week before, Billie-Jo had become so "paranoid" about her belief she was being phoned and followed by a man that a family agreement had been reached that she would never be left alone. "I was shocked about her being left in the house on her own," she said.

Mrs Jenkins denied knowing that the girls' evidence would be helpful to their father's defence and thinking they must be lying. Her only concern was that two girls, aged 11 and 12, should not be pressured.

She agreed that, on the evening of the day of the murder, she had told her husband to stop questioning Annie about what had happened. But she said that, in doing so, she was not accusing him of trying to tell her what to say. "At this time it had never even entered my head that Sion was the murderer," she said. "It was just his quizzing her about every moment of the day on the day her sister had died. It seemed wholly inappropriate."

Last week when Charlotte and Annie, who are now 18 and 19, and live with their mother, gave evidence both said they could not remember many of the details about the day of the killing or of what they had told their mother.

The hearing is due to continue today, when Mrs Jenkins will be further cross-examined.