More years of inertia from Sussex Police

The question of who killed Billie -Jo Jenkins still remains to be addressed more than a quarter of a century after the murder took place.

During that time there have been six Chief Constables of Sussex

  • Paul Whitehouse: 1993 - 2001
  • Ken Jones : 2001 - 2006
  • Joseph Edwards : 2006 - 2007
  • Martin Richards: 2008 - 2014
  • Giles York : 2014 - 2020
  • Jo Shiner : 2020 - present

Billie-Jo Jenkins was murdered on 15th February 1997. Her foster father was wrongly convicted of her murder in 1998.

A first appeal in December 1999 was heard and rejected.

In May 2003 his case was referred to The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

At the end of June 2004 his second appeal began and finally, on 16 July 2004 his murder conviction was quashed.

His conviction was overturned at a second appeal and a retrial ordered.

In April 2005 the retrial began, only to end with a hung jury. The prosecution immediately called for a third trial.

On 31 October 2005 his second retrial opened. Four months later on 9 February 2006 he was formally acquitted of murder.

The case has become widely known as one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in legal history.

It was estimated that £10 million of public money was spent in the relentless attempt to convict an innocent man.

Yet over all these years, from 1997 to 2023, absolutely no attempt has been made to re-investigate the case and try to discover who was responsible for the murder of Billie-Jo.

Only now, as the 26th anniversary of the murder is approaching, has there been any acknowledgement that this sad story still has no ending.

Jo Shiner is the first Chief Constable to have initiated any kind of review of the case. She deserves respect for taking this step.

Most significant is the need to re-open the investigation and ensure that there can be closure for those whose lives changed forever in February 1997, and who continue to suffer because the murderer remains undetected.

Over the years, Billie-Jo's late mother called for the police to re-open the investigation more than once. She said “The police have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

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.

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 2023, unconditional trust in certain public organisations - including police forces past and present - is rare. Even now, recent months and weeks continue to bear witness to this unwelcome truth and undermine reputations.

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-six 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 that question.

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

In marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of a tragic and still-unsolved murder, this Campaign for Justice invites Sussex Police to show the moral courage to own its past, and the honesty to admit that the serious mistakes that were made in 1997 have never been addressed with the degree of determination and focus they deserved.

…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.