Judges told murder case was improbable and wrong

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The prosecution's case against Sion Jenkins on a charge of murdering his teenage foster daughter Billie-Jo was "not merely inherently improbable but wrong", three appeal judges were told today.

The prosecution's case against Sion Jenkins on a charge of murdering his teenage foster daughter Billie-Jo was "not merely inherently improbable but wrong", three appeal judges were told today.

Fresh evidence gathered since Jenkins was convicted in 1998 would prove "that Sion Jenkins has not only suffered the tragic loss of a child through murder but has also been wrongly convicted of that murder", said his counsel, Clare Montgomery QC.

Two of his natural daughters, Lottie and Annie, who were with him when he discovered the body, had given accounts to the police which effectively precluded his being the murderer.

"Indeed their accounts strongly suggested that the murder had been committed by an intruder who had gained access to their home by the back gate," she said.

But Lottie and Annie were not called as witnesses at the trial because defence lawyers believed they had become hostile to their father.

Fresh evidence from the two girls, which would be presented in his appeal, confirmed their original accounts "and establishes that their apparent hostility was the product of their mother giving inaccurate information to the police", Miss Montgomery claimed.

Jenkins, 46, was jailed for life at Lewis Crown Court for bludgeoning 13-year-old Billie-Jo to death with an 18in metal tent spike as she painted a patio door at their home in Hastings, East Sussex, in February 1997.

Miss Montgomery told Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Curtis and Mr JusticeWakerley the prosecution secured a conviction partly on the basis of evidencefrom forensic scientists who said that 150 microscopic spots of blood found onJenkins's clothes could only have been produced during a frenzied attack onBillie-Jo.

But new evidence would show that the blood spots were more likely to have been caused by blood exhaled from the girl's airways as he leant across her stricken body.

Lottie, now 18, has travelled to Britain from her new home in Tasmania to give evidence in the Court of Appeal, and her sister, 20, has made a statement in a video recording seen by the judges.

Their mother Lois, who divorced Jenkins soon after his conviction and moved to Australia with a new partner, is to give evidence for the Crown in its opposition to his fresh appeal.

During the three-week appeal hearing, the judges will also examine evidence that a mentally ill man, referred to as Mr X, who was known to have been in the vicinity when Billie-Jo was killed, had shown signs of having a fixation with pushing pieces of plastic bag up his nose.

Billie-Jo had part of a black bin-liner stuffed deeply into one of her nostrils.

Jenkins sat in the dock of the Court of Appeal today to hear Miss Montgomeryrecall what she described as the "improbable" prosecution case.

It was alleged that, during a three-minute visit to the family home on the afternoon of February 15 1997, Jenkins flew into a rage with 13-year-old Billie-Jo, walked past her on the patio - ignoring several potential weapons, including a hammer, on the patio table - and took the tent peg from a fuel bunker near the side gate.

Then, it was claimed, he battered her more than ten times, bending the peg, and pushed part of a plastic bag into her nose before leaving with Lottie and Annie on a shopping trip with no sign of blood or paint on him.

There was no evidence of any incident which could have triggered such a "murderous rage", said Miss Montgomery.

The far more likely explanation was that Billie-Jo was killed by an intruder who entered through the side gate near where the tent peg was stored.

Miss Montgomery said the evidence from the two girls made it almost impossiblefor their father to have been the murderer.

On their accounts, Billie-Jo was alive when they left the house after the brief visit and their father came out almost immediately afterwards. He would have had no time to kill her.

The intruder theory was supported by Lottie, who told police the side gate was closed when they left but open when they returned from the DIY store.

Lois Jenkins had told police of conversations she had with the two girls in the months following the murder in which they allegedly made comments conflicting with their original accounts.

But for the police reports of those conversations, defence counsel Anthony Scrivener QC would have called Lottie and Annie to give evidence for their father, said Miss Montgomery.

The two girls had since denied making the alleged comments which were most damaging to their father's case.

Their fresh evidence showed that the defence lawyers were misled at the trial because they believed the girl's evidence had changed when it had not.

If the jurors had heard the girls' evidence, they might well have acquitted Jenkins.