Someone knows the answer…

15th February 2016 marks the nineteenth anniversary of an unsolved murder.

One 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. The conviction was overturned at a second appeal in 2004 and he was acquitted in February 2006. The decade since that acquittal has seen no attempt by the police to re-open the investigation.

Nineteen years have passed since the murder, and the world has changed. Today, information travels fast and we all have access to it in a way that would have been unimaginable ten years ago. The once-unimaginable has become commonplace.

The public is now more sceptical, less trustful, and no longer in awe of institutions that in the past would have seemed beyond scrutiny. Speaking truth to power has become a familiar notion. The consequence of this change is that those institutions are increasingly at pains to communicate their transparency, accountability and integrity.

Nineteen years after Billie-Jo's murder things have also changed within Sussex Police. The current Chief Constable, Giles Yorke, shares his vision for Sussex Police by 2020, speaking of “a modern, trusted workforce with integrity at our core.”

The Sussex Police website highlights its own core foundations, citing impartiality, accountability and integrity. In 2016 it is reassuring to note that its explicit commitments include:

  • Upholding the law fairly, firmly, ethically and with impartiality.
  • Bringing offenders to justice, particularly the most serious offenders.

What could be more serious than the violent death of a thirteen year old girl - even though it took place nineteen years ago?

Over the years the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins has attracted wide attention. The case has become known in legal and academic circles as a major miscarriage of justice. The poor quality of the initial investigation and the subsequent entrenched reluctance to re-examine all the evidence have, if anything, become even more obvious with the passing of time.

What could be more impressive than to see Sussex Police uphold its explicit commitment by bringing the offender to justice in this tragic high profile case ?

Commenting on their practice in the late 1990s Sussex police have pointed out that “current investigative practices are vastly different”.

The Force has completely updated and reorganised the way it investigates both major crime and critical incidents ... These arrangements were closely examined and approved by HM Inspectors of Constabulary.

ITV news 14 August 2014

We invite Sussex police to show the moral courage to own its past and to demonstrate its present standards. There is an undeniable relationship between truth and reconciliation. The story of Billie-Jo Jenkins cannot have a happy ending, but it should have a truthful one.

There are individuals with vested interests who may hope that after nineteen years no-one will still be asking “Who killed Billie-Jo?”
But the insistent voices of reason still ask that question.

Someone knows the answer, and still, after nineteen years, the truth needs to be told.

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