Murdered girl's family hail Sion Jenkins cash denial

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The Independent Online

Government officials were right to deny Sion Jenkins compensation for the six years he spent in jail accused of murdering his foster daughter, her family said today.





They said the former deputy headteacher "had a cheek" to press for a reported £500,000 damages claim for his time spent behind bars before he was cleared of killing Billie-Jo Jenkins.



Jenkins had insisted he "fitted all the criteria" for a payout after losing his liberty for six years, which led to his ex-wife deserting him with their four daughters.



But it was disclosed that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had rejected his bid, with officials saying that the Appeal Court made clear compensation should be paid when someone has been shown to be "clearly innocent".



The statement led Jenkins' campaigners to condemn what they called an "insidious" remark by the MoJ and added: "In which universe does 'not guilty' mean 'not innocent'?"



Billie-Jo, 13, was found in a pool of blood with head injuries inflicted by a metal tent peg on the patio of the family's large Victorian home in Lower Park Road, Hastings, East Sussex, on February 15, 1997.



Jenkins, at the time headteacher-designate at all-boys William Parker School in Hastings, maintained his innocence and insisted Billie-Jo must have been killed by an intruder while he visited a DIY store.



In 1998 he was convicted at Lewes Crown Court of murdering her and jailed for life but he had a retrial in 2005 after successfully appealing.



However, the jury failed to agree a verdict and a second retrial ended the same way in 2006, allowing him to walk free.



Today, the widow of Billie-Jo's natural father, Bill Jenkins, who by coincidence shared the same surname, criticised the decision by Jenkins to submit a compensation claim in the first place.



Elizabeth Jenkins, 62, from Canning Town, east London, said: "Myself and the family think he had a cheek to put in for that money.



"I was pleased that he didn't get it because I don't think he should be a free man.



"As far as I'm concerned he should still be inside but he has just denied it all the time."



Mrs Jenkins, who wed her husband months before he died from cancer, said he would be pleased at the refusal of compensation by the MoJ.



She added: "He would be delighted that he was turned down because he felt in his heart that he didn't have any doubt about who did it."



In a newspaper interview in 2008 after the publication of his book, The Murder Of Billie-Jo, Jenkins said: "I believe the Government should compensate me for taking away my liberty for six years, which also meant I lost the childhood of my daughters."



Following the killing, his ex-wife, Lois, emigrated to Tasmania with their four daughters, who chose to have no contact with their father.



Jenkins, who now lives in Hampshire after marrying new wife Tina Ferneyhough, insisted he would "not rest" until police found Billie-Jo's killer.



On his website, Justice for Sion Jenkins, he wrote: "Since I've been free, I have been asked if I've now found peace and some kind of resolution.



"I will never feel resolution is possible while Billie's killer walks free.



"People encourage me to think of 'moving on' and putting everything behind me, but my priorities centre on getting justice for Billie.



"Since my acquittal I have been reading through every available piece of evidence.



"I have divided this into relevant sections and, with help from other people, I am in the process of trying to re-create the jigsaw of events.



"I will not rest until Billie's killer is brought to justice.



"I need to know who ended her life. So I work, read and investigate to this end.



"Billie will never be forgotten. I will never give up. That is my message to the person who took her life."



Sussex Police said they would continue to follow up any new leads which emerged.



A spokesman said: "The murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins in 1997 remains an unresolved case and is therefore subject to review in the event of any new and compelling evidence coming to light.



"We will continue actively to pursue any viable lines of inquiry put to us, but none have emerged."



An MoJ spokesman said: "We do not comment on individual cases. Awards are based on the individual circumstances of each case.



"The Court of Appeal has made clear that, in the court's view, the right test to adopt in deciding whether someone is entitled to compensation is whether they have been shown to be clearly innocent."



A statement posted on the Justice for Sion Jenkins website described the MoJ's remark as "disturbing". And it said the original investigation was flawed and that has never been confronted.



It said: "The Ministry of Justice's insidious statement that it would not comment on individual cases but that damages for wrongful imprisonment were paid only when a person is shown to be 'clearly innocent' is disturbing.



"In which universe does 'not guilty' mean 'not innocent'?"