Foster father's frustrating day 'led to murder'

Louise Jury
Thursday 04 June 1998 23:02

A DEPUTY headmaster smashed the skull of his foster daughter in a savage beating with an 18in spike after a day of "frustrating and irritating events", a court was told yesterday.

Sion Jenkins murdered 13-year-old Billie-Jo Jenkins only feet from where two of his natural daughters were waiting for him, Camden Pratt QC, for the prosecution, told Lewes Crown Court, in East Sussex.

The court heard that no motive for the killing had emerged. Although Mr Pratt suggested that Mr Jenkins had endured a morning of "frustrating, perhaps irritating" minor events, he said it was possible the motive for the alleged murder would never be known.

"It may well have gone to the grave with Billie-Jo Jenkins, but if the scientific evidence is right ... it is, say the Crown, incontrovertible evidence that this defendant struck and murdered Billie-Jo."

He then fled, taking his two daughters on a "curious" 15-minute drive around his local park in an attempt to distance himself from the attack. But he was caught by 139 microscopic specks of Billie-Jo's blood on his clothes, Mr Pratt said.

Mr Jenkins, 40, the suspended deputy head of William Parker comprehensive in Hastings, denies murdering Billie-Jo, who had been fostered by the Jenkins family for four years.

Mr Pratt said the spattering of blood, like the mist from an aerosol, found on Mr Jenkins' trousers and fleece jacket was not consistent simply with handling a blood-stained body. "The pattern ... is consistent with the defendant having stood very close to Billie-Jo when she was being struck."

Similar forensic evidence was not found on a neighbour or ambulancemen who attended the scene of the attack in February last year. Mr Pratt said police had found no other possible suspect in the area.

Apologising to jurors as he showed them photographs of Billie-Jo's body, he said: "You probably have little doubt in view of these savage injuries to her head in coming to the conclusion that she was indeed murdered ... this trial will be about whether the defendant is the man who perpetrated the crime."

The court was told that during the morning before the murder Mr Jenkins' wife, Lois, had forgotten her cheque book and had telephoned from the supermarket for him to bring it.

At his first attempt, however, he took an empty book and had to go back a second time. More time was wasted when Mrs Jenkins had to show him where to collect his 10-year-old daughter, Lottie, from a clarinet lesson because they did not have the complete address. After lunch, his wife took two other daughters, Esther, nine, and Maya, seven, out for the afternoon. "They were never to see Billie-Jo alive again," Mr Pratt said.

Mr Jenkins was left to supervise Billie-Jo, who was painting the patio windows at their Victorian home in the town, and 12-year-old Annie, who was clearing out the utility room including the metal tent peg later used to kill the foster child.

At nearly 3pm, he and Annie went to collect Lottie and returned to the house. But Mr Pratt said they stayed only minutes before leaving again on the pretext of buying white spirit, because Billie-Jo had got some paint on the patio tiles.

"It is the Crown's contention that although the defendant did follow out the two children, Annie and Lottie, there must have been a short gap of time before he followed them out when he struck and killed Billie-Jo. During those few moments, the defendant must have grabbed the tent peg ... struck Billie- Jo on the head several times, not just once, and killed her, dropped the tent peg and fled the scene."

Buying the white spirit was his excuse to leave. But Mr Pratt said despite the earlier incident with the cheque book, Mr Jenkins took no money with him on his 15-minute drive to a DIY store and police later found half a bottle of white spirit in the utility room. "The Crown say the reason for that manoeuvre can only be because he was in the process of working out how to distance himself from what he had just done."

On their return, it was Lottie who found the body on the patio. Mr Jenkins immediately ushered Annie and her into the dining room. "The Crown will suggest that that was because he knew that Billie-Jo was dead and beyond help, because it was he that had killed her."

The jury of eight men and four women heard that Mr Jenkins then called an ambulance saying Billie-Jo had fallen within the last 30 to 45 minutes. Mr Pratt said that was a "grave exaggeration" of the time he had been away from home.

The case continues.

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