Billie-Jo Jenkins didn’t have the easiest start in life. When she was just eight years old, her father Billy was sent to prison. Unable to cope alone, her mother, Deborah, an alcoholic, placed Billie-Jo in foster care.
She was eventually taken in by a well-off, middle class couple, Sion and Lois Jenkins, who by pure coincidence happened to have the same surname as her. Perhaps at the time, to Billie, that seemed like a good omen.
Indeed, the Jenkins’ seemed like a perfect family. Sion was deputy head teacher of the local boys’ school and Lois was a social worker. Their four daughters, Annie, 12, Lottie, 10, Esther, eight, and Maya, seven, were excited about welcoming a new “sister” into the home.
It was a fresh start for Billie-Jo and she coped with the transition well, moving into the family’s large six-bedroom house in East Sussex in the UK and starting at a local school there.
From the outside, Billie-Jo seemed stable and happy. She was described by school friends as “always having a laugh” and “destined to be a star” according to the BBC.
But on 15 February 1997, at 3.38pm, police received a 999 call from Sion Jenkins who said he’d just arrived home to find Billie-Jo, by then 13, injured on the back patio.
“My daughter’s fallen, or she’s got head injuries, there’s blood everywhere, she’s on the floor,” he told the operator, according to The Mirror.
By the time paramedics arrived, Billie-Jo was a dead. An autopsy revealed she had been frenziedly beaten with an 18-inch metal tent spike in the backyard of the Jenkins’ home; she had been struck at least nine time and her skull was crushed.
There was no evidence of sexual assault, but curiously, a small piece of black bin liner had been pushed up into Billie-Jo’s nostril.
The Jenkins’ made an emotional televised appeal for help with the police investigation, but Lois Jenkins had already begun to suspect her husband.
“I woke up in the middle of the night as he turned over in bed and it dawned on me it could have been him. I lay there terrified, thinking it must be him – and if it wasn’t him, at least it could have been him,” she later wrote in a memoir for the Daily Mail.