Father of missing girl killed her to silence sexual abuse claims, court told

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Bedfordshire police/PA</span>
Photograph: Bedfordshire police/PA

A teenager who disappeared last summer and whose body has never been found was murdered by her father to silence her claims he sexually abused her, a court has heard.

Bernadette Walker, a 17-year-old photography student from Peterborough, was last seen alive on 18 July last year when her father, Scott Walker, 51, collected her from his parents’ house where she had spent the night.

Lisa Wilding QC, opening the prosecution case, said the teenager “has literally never been seen again”.

The court heard how Bernadette’s parents told the police she had run away and sent messages from her phone to friends and family pretending to be her to divert detectives.

Wilding said the girl’s father and her 38-year-old mother, Sarah Walker, formed an “unholy alliance” in order to “mislead, divert and pervert” the police investigation and cover up Bernadette’s death. “All parental love and responsibility was gone, if ever it actually existed,” Wilding said.

Her mother did not report her missing to police until 21 July, the prosecution said.

Cambridge crown court heard how Bernadette, known as Bea, told her mother on 16 July, two days before her disappearance, that her father “had been sexually abusing her over a number of years”.

“Sarah Walker told Bernadette that she did not believe her,” Wilding said, and it was decided she should spend the night with her grandparents “while things calmed down”.

Since her father picked her up the following morning, “no one who knew her or loved her has heard from her”, said Wilding, adding that Bernadette has not used her phone or social media accounts since, and did not have access to any money.

“She is presumed dead and … it’s likely that her body was disposed of, probably in the countryside in the hours that followed her killing,” she told the court. “The prosecution allege that Scott Walker killed Bernadette to prevent her pursuing her allegations of sexual abuse any further.”

Wilding said Bernadette dressed as “something of a Goth” and had a habit of dying her hair in rainbow colours. Her friends described her as “socially awkward” and she formed many of her friendships online.

Scott Walker alleges Bernadette jumped out of the car on the drive home from his parents’ house and ran off, and claims he tried and failed to run after her before returning home, the court heard.

Her parents then hacked into Bernadette’s social media accounts and sent false messages from her phone, which was still in their possession, the court heard, in an attempt to “lay a false trail to explain their subsequent failure to report her missing to the police”.

Wilding said by diverting the investigation for so long “any hope of finding Bea’s body disappeared with her”.

“They lied to everyone around them … about her disappearance and they were unflinching in their pursuit of their devious, wicked plan,” she said. Both were arrested more than six weeks later.

“To this day, neither of them accepts that Bea is dead,” Wilding added.

Scott Walker denies Bernadette’s murder on or after 18 July last year and four counts of perverting the course of justice.

Sarah Walker denies two counts of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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