Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 6 News List

British assistant principal acquitted of murder, freed

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

British deputy headteacher Sion Jenkins walked from court a free man for the first time in nine years on Thursday after a judge formally acquitted him of murdering his foster daughter, Billie-Jo, following the introduction of new scientific evidence.

But even as Jenkins left the Old Bailey amid violent scenes, questions were being asked about why detailed allegations from his first wife of years of domestic violence were withheld from the two juries that tried him and failed to reach verdicts in the past year.

Lois Jenkins, who has four children with Jenkins, alleged he beat her regularly in the years before Billie-Jo was killed and hit their daughters with a stick and a slipper. After one attack she was so frightened of him she hid and was later treated in hospital. As he left court arm in arm with his second wife, Christina Ferneyhough, Jenkins was attacked by Billie-Jo's natural family. Maggie Coster, the 13-year-old's aunt, punched Jenkins repeatedly in the face, drawing blood, before she was pulled away by police.

Earlier she had shouted from the public gallery: "It's not over yet, Jenkins, you fucking child killer, everyone knows it. She was a 13-year-old kid, you fucking Bible-bashing prat, it ain't over."

Jenkins was formally cleared when a retrial jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for 39 hours over eight days.

Nicholas Hilliard, prosecuting, said the Crown would offer no further evidence, ending a nine-year ordeal in which Jenkins has stood trial three times for murder, had two appeal hearings and served six years.

The former Jenkins's account of the alleged domestic violence was given on behalf of the prosecution to the court of appeal in 2004. The judges quashed Jenkins's 1998 conviction and released him on bail for a retrial.

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