The ex-wife of Sion Jenkins has described how she began to fear that her former husband may have killed their foster daughter, Billie-Jo, just days after she was found bludgeoned to death at the family home.
Telling her story over six pages of The Mail on Sunday, Lois Jenkins made allegations that were never put before a jury about the couple's troubled life together, claiming he subjected her to physical assaults.
Mr Jenkins was acquitted of Billie-Jo's murder when a jury failed to reach a verdict at a third trial last week. The former deputy head, meanwhile, told his story in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph. In prison diaries written four years ago he insisted he was innocent and compared himself to the ancient Greek hero Odysseus.
Mrs Jenkins, who has a new partner and baby, and lives in Tasmania with the four daughters fathered by her former husband, described him as a controlling, emotionally remote figure with obsessive tendencies. She said he had violent mood swings and followed principles laid down in a controversial parenting guide Spare Not the Rod, which advocates corporal punishment.
Suspicion first dawned on her the night after an emotional press conference in which the couple appealed for the teenager's killer to come forward.
"I woke up in the middle of the night as he turned over in bed and it dawned on me it could have been him. I lay there terrified, thinking it must be him - and if it wasn't him, at least it could be him," she said.
On the day of the murder in 1997, she said Mr Jenkins offered little comfort. "I can recall with clarity the look in his eyes as he told the children, 'Billie's dead'. It had no trace of emotion." She said that even before the killing at their six-bedroom house in Hastings, her husband had developed a "space around himself that was only entered by invitation".
Despite the outwardly respectable and happy exterior shown by the church-going family, Mrs Jenkins said she considered leaving her husband shortly before the murder. The couple met while she was training as a nurse in the East End of London and he was working as a supply teacher. From an affluent Edinburgh background, he had a "whirlwind conversion" to Christianity and the couple married a year after they met. Both sets of parents advised against the union, she said. "The early years of our marriage were traumatic because Sion would suddenly become aggressive when he was upset. He slapped me in the face on a few occasions but he would quickly calm down and behave as though nothing had happened."
After the birth of their four children he became "fiercely ambitious" and attempted to dominate everything he was involved in - "work, church and the local community," she said. He even considered becoming a vicar.
The couple's marriage improved as Mrs Jenkins developed coping mechanisms, and in 1992 they fostered Billie-Jo. The family moved to Hastings for Mr Jenkins to take up a deputy headship, and he stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative councillor. But she claimed he became increasingly volatile and angry, and sought another promotion. After accepting the headship of his school in Hastings he became concerned over false references he had supplied, she said.
In his diary, Mr Jenkins, who has since remarried, describes the "heavy ... burden of grief at Billie's death and knowing that some people believe I'm responsible." He adds: "In my vindication, my children will also be freed from the burden of their father being a convicted murderer."