Family of Jessie Earl apply to Attorney General for fresh inquest into daughter's death

Yohannes Lowe
John and Valerie Earl whose daughter Jessie disappeared 27 years ago - Peter Payne

The family of a murdered young woman are launching an attempt to overturn her inquest ruling in a fresh bid to end their 40-year wait for justice.

Jessie Earl was 22 when she disappeared in Eastbourne, East Sussex, in May 1980 before her remains were found in scrubland near Beachy Head eight years later.

At an inquest held later that year, a coroner ruled an open verdict.

Her elderly parents Val and John Earl have long maintained Jessie was murdered and have called for a fresh inquest in the hope new forensic evidence could be explored, which could lead to her death recorded as unlawful killing.

The Earls accused Sussex Police of failures in its original investigation, which included an alleged missed opportunity to identify her killer by destroying possible DNA evidence on her bra when it was discarded.

Following criticism of its handling, police reopened the case in January 2000 at the Earls request and formally recorded Jessie's death as murder.

Jessie’s disappearance was reported extensively in the press, and the Earls were interviewed on Terry Wogan’s television show

A fresh report was submitted to a coroner but no further inquest was ordered. The couple now want their daughter's body to be exhumed to collect any potential DNA evidence they claim could identify her killer.

In a statement the couple told The Sunday Telegraph: “As a family we have waited nearly 40 years for the chance to get the right verdict for our daughter. The failings of the police to initially treat Jessie's death as murder, certainly had a massive impact on the case and in particular the bra being destroyed.

“It is so wrong to suggest that the cause of death is unknown, leaving open a whole range of possibilities, when the obvious explanation stares you in the face — unlawful killing. It is unjust to Jessie to suggest that there could be any other conclusion.”

Convicted serial killer Peter Tobin, who lived nearby at the time of Jessie's disappearance, has previously been named by the couple as the person thought to be responsible for their daughter's death.

But police stated there was no evidence to implicate that Tobin was involved in Jessie's disappearance.

The police have never directly questioned him about the allegations over her death as there is insufficient evidence to do so.

No clothes or belongings were found at the scene, only her brown Marks & Spencer bra, tied in a knot

Mr and Mrs Earl, 91 and 89, last spoke to their daughter, then an art student at Eastbourne College of Art Design, on Wednesday 14 May 1980 in a public phone box on Eastbourne seafront about her recent exam success.

She promised her mother she would be back in their South London home by the weekend, as she was expecting a visit from an Australian penfriend in the days in-between.

On December 23, the Earls will submit an application to the Attorney General for a new inquest to be held into Jessie's death, and a fresh hearing could be determined in the High Court if the request is successful.

Stephen Kamlish QC, Christopher Williams and David Wells , of Wells Burcombe Solicitors LLP, are due to represent the family.

Their quest has been supported by former detective and  Investigative Reporter Mark William-Thomas who claims the family's best chance of securing justice is to overturn the original inquest verdict.