Teacher convicted of murdering stepdaughter gains further appeal; Criminal Review Commission refers case back to court.
A FATHER convicted of the brutal murder of his stepdaughter has had his case referred to the Court of Appeal. Former deputy headteacher Sion Jenkins from Aberystwyth is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning 13-year-old Billie-Jo to death with an 18-inch metal tent spike.
He was convicted of the killing in July 1998, but has maintained his innocence ever since. Mr Jenkins's appeal against the conviction was rejected by the Court of Appeal in December 1999, but the case has now been referred back there by the Criminal Cases Review Com-mission. Mr Jenkins was last night said to be elated at the news. At the 1998 trial, the prosecution said that after the attack at the family home in Hastings, Sussex, there were more than 150 microscopic spots of the teenager's blood on his jacket, consistent only with Jenkins having been the attacker. The jury at his trial, held at Lewes Crown Court, was told that after battering her, he went shopping at a local DIY store with two of his four other daughters, then pretended to discover Billie-Jo's body when he returned.
At the Court of Appeal in London in December 1999, Jenkins's barrister, Anthony Scrivener QC, claimed his client's jacket had been contaminated with the blood as he attended the dying girl, because a bubble of blood burst in her nose. Jenkins, 44, had become Billie-Jo's legal guardian two months before the 1997 murder, after fostering her since 1993. He told police he had found her body when he returned home with two of his natural daughters after leaving her alone for 40 minutes.
But just weeks later he was arrested and charged with her murder. He was given a life sentence after being convicted of the crime.Campaigners for Mr Jenkins have long insisted there are inconsistencies in the case against him, and have maintained a website outlining their case.
A television documentary was made about the case, and his supporters say he has been the victim of a smear campaign since his conviction.
Canon Stuart Bell of St Michael's Church, Aberystwyth, where Mr Jenkins regularly worshipped, welcomed the news last night.
Rev Bell said, ``I am very pleased with the decision. I'm afraid to say these things do take some time.
``He has been very strong throughout the whole time. One of the things that has kept his spirit up is his Christian faith. He has stuck to his faith.''
Rev Bell regularly visits Mr Jenkins in Wakefield prison, and plans to do so again in the near future.
Mr Jenkins's solicitor Neil O'May said, ``We are delighted that the long fight for justice for Sion Jenkins is now in its final stages.
``The CCRC has thoroughly investigated the case and be-lieves there is a real possibility that Sion Jenkins's conviction will be quashed by the Court of Appeal.
``We have investigated the circumstances of the conviction ourselves very thoroughly, and we are confident that the Court of Appeal will mark this case as a miscarriage of justice.
``Sion Jenkins is elated with the news. After spending such a long time incarcerated in prison, the end is now in sight.
``He is aware that he will have to spend further time in custody until the Court of Appeal hear his case.
``He is grateful for all the support he has received in the past, and knows that he can count on this over the next difficult stage.''
The CCRC is an independent body with the power to re-open cases where it suspects a miscarriage of justice, and refer them to the appeal courts.
It considers whether or not there is a real possibility that the conviction, finding, verdict or sentence would not be upheld, were a reference made.
Mr Jenkins had four daughters with his wife Lois, and the couple fostered Billie-Jo and, briefly, her brother Daryl.
The couple have since divorced.
The Calico KidLAST year a book by Sion Jenkins's younger brother Llewellyn was published, based on his writings since Billie-Jo's murder in February 1997.
In Calico Boys, he writes about the brothers' childhoods, ``Sion lived outdoors. Shot through with curiosity and sharp as pepper, he had once, aged three-and-a-bit, famously absconded through a side gate, to be brought home an hour later by the proprietor of a car showroom.
``He'd been found sitting in the front seat of a Bentley, gnawing on the steering wheel.''
On learning of the murder, he wrote, ``I was in the bath, listening to the radio, when I heard that a girl had been murdered in Hastings.
``I think it was the following morning my dad rang, telling me it was Billie. That's when it all changed, all our lives, forever. '' Referring to early news reports of the case, he wrote, ``I sat cross-legged on the bed, trying to open a packet of biscuits I didn't want to eat, listening for news I didn't want to hear.
``As the kettle boiled, those grisly shots of my brother appealing for help at the news conference appeared; this was followed by a live broadcast from outside Hastings police station which anticipated him being charged with the murder of his foster-daughter. ''
MURDERED: Billie-Jo; Jenkins; BRUTAL CRIME: Sion Jenkins from Aberystwyth is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning his 13-year-old stepdaughter to death