Two anniversaries

The first one

15th February 2018 is the twenty-first anniversary of an unsolved murder.

On a sunny Saturday in February 1997 a thirteen year old girl was brutally murdered in broad daylight on the patio of her own home in Hastings, East Sussex.

That girl was Billie-Jo Jenkins. Her killer has never been found.

Her foster father was wrongly convicted of her murder and served six years in prison before his conviction was overturned at a second appeal. Two retrials later, he was acquitted in 2006.

Incredibly, the twelve years since that acquittal have seen no attempt by the police to re-open the investigation.

Twenty one years have passed since the murder.

In many ways the world has changed out of all recognition but when it comes to justice for Billie-Jo, time has just stood still.

Today, information travels faster than it ever has before. The past starts to feel more remote and it's harder to remember the things that happened.

Yet today, lots of people still remember the sad story of Billie-Jo and its unfinished ending. They ask why there's been no justice for her.

Who killed Billie-Jo?

Someone knows the answer and it's time to tell the truth.

Nowadays we've grown used to hearing how past wrongdoings have come to light in organisations which once would have been seemed to be beyond reproach. In today's fast-moving information age it doesn't take long for the searchlight of scrutiny to uncover events that may have been concealed for decades. Those who once thought they would never be found can no longer hide in the shadows.

There are individuals with vested interests who may hope that after twenty-one years no-one will still be asking “Who killed Billie-Jo?” There are many people in all parts of the country whose concerns have never gone away. That's why the voice of reason still asks the question.

The story of Billie-Jo can't have a happy ending but it should have a truthful one.

Someone knows the answer and it's time to tell the truth.

The second one

2018 also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Sussex police , a source of understandable pride and celebration.

Commenting on the anniversary Giles Yorke, the Chief Constable says “ We are a workforce of individuals who serve with dedication, professionalism and moral courage. While doing so, our staff and officers have empathy, they have good humour in going about their duties, and most of all they have compassion.”

In marking the twenty first anniversary of a tragic and unsolved murder, we invite Sussex Police to show the moral courage to own its past, and the honesty to admit that serious mistakes were made in 1997.

Last year near the anniversary of the murder, Billie-Jo's natural mother called for the police to re-open the investigation. She said “The police have nothing to lose and everything to gain. ”

During this anniversary year for Sussex Police, can Giles Yorke draw deeply enough on the empathy and compassion he mentions to start dismantling the painful legacy of 15 February 1997 and bringing relief to those who have been suffering its impact for twenty one years ?

..uncorrected miscarriages of justice corrode respect for legal institutions. As a society we are finally learning that it is less damaging to admit mistakes than to pretend that they never happened. Nothing enhances justice more than the rigorous pursuit of error.

The Guardian: Justice on Trial 4 May 2009.