Sion Jenkins, acquitted last month of murdering his 13-year-old foster daughter, Billie-Jo, last night spoke in detail for the first time about events surrounding her death. He lashed out at Sussex police, who investigated the crime, accusing them of "using" and manipulating his former wife, Lois, and turning her against him in the original trial eight years ago.
In an emotionally charged interview, Mr Jenkins denied claims by Lois that he had been violent during their marriage. He last night described himself as a "good husband" and "loving father" who had never beaten his wife. He says that Lois was "confused" and "vulnerable" in the wake of the murder, and that the Sussex force should apologise to her.
"In all the allegations that Lois has put, with regard to that I was a wife beater, that is not true," he says.
The former deputy head teacher, 48, was jailed for life in 1998 for the murder of Billie-Jo at their home in Hastings, East Sussex, in February 1997. A retrial was ordered by the Appeal Court in 2004, and Mr Jenkins was freed on appeal, but the jury failed to reach a verdict at the Old Bailey last year. A further retrial was ordered, but this February, after a five-month trial the jury again failed to reach a verdict, and the Crown decided not to seek a new trial. As Mr Jenkins walked free, he was jostled and punched by furious relatives of Billie-Jo. One shouted, "It ain't over yet!"
Billie-Jo was beaten to death on a sunny Saturday: Mr Jenkins maintained in court that the last time he saw her alive she was painting their patio doors. He had gone to buy white spirit at a local shop with two daughters, and said that on his return he found Billie-Jo dying, covered in blood. He said he held her in his arms and dialled 999.
Talking to Sir Trevor McDonald for a special edition of ITV1's Tonight, broadcast tomorrow, Mr Jenkins claims that his movements and behaviour on the day of the murder were "presented in a false light" and "twisted".
The prosecution argued that a fine spray of blood on Mr Jenkins's clothes was caused when he repeatedly struck her with a tent peg. However, at the 2004 appeal, government scientists conceded that they had ignored post- mortem tests that might have revealed that Billie-Jo suffered from a medical condition that meant air could have been forced into her lower lungs - and caused a mist of blood particles to spray from her nose and mouth when Mr Jenkins was holding her. In court it was revealed that he had once lied on a CV to get a better teaching job- placing his character and the value of his testimony in question.
"Maybe 97 per cent of [the first] trial was fought on science," he tells Sir Trevor. "Both my appeals were effectively fought on science. My appeal was allowed because of the scientific case that supports my innocence ... suddenly it was more like 60 per cent science and the other 40 per cent was bad character: you have lied on your CV, that probably means he is guilty."
Mr Jenkins lied on his CV "because I wanted a better job ... to be sure of getting an interview ... and so I stupidly exaggerated my qualifications and experience and after a few years it became an albatross around my neck and I regretted it."
Of the moment he found Billie-Jo's blood-spattered body, he says: "I could not take it in. My world just fell apart. I had my two other daughters with me, Annie and Lottie, and they were crying and were hysterical.
"I needed to be with Billie and to help her. I had my other children to look after. I had no idea what was happening. There was nobody else to help me ... I phoned a friend of the family who only lived a minute away to come over. But it was, it is, a scene that no person should ever see and I couldn't cope with it at all."
'Billie-Jo and Me: A Tonight Special' is broadcast on ITV1 tomorrow at 8pmReuse content