Jessie Earl: Parents vindicated as inquest finds daughter was unlawfully killed

  • ITV Meridian reporter Joe Coshan speaks to John and Valerie Earl about their 42 year fight for justice.

The parents of an Eastbourne student whose remains were found nine years after she disappeared say they're pleased their wait for justice is finally over, after a coroner ruled she was unlawfully killed.

Jessie Earl, 22, disappeared from her home in May 1980. Her remains were discovered near Beachy Head in East Sussex in 1989.

An inquest at the time recorded an open verdict.

Jessie's parents John and Valerie Earl campaigned long and hard for a fresh hearing.

Today, the couple, now in their 90s finally got the ruling they wanted, more than four decades after their daughter died.

At a second inquest, a coroner ruled that Jessie was unlawfully killed and believes she was murdered.

Jessie Earl was an avid writer and artist before she was murdered more than 30 years ago. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Giving her reaction to the ruling, Valerie Earl said, "We're very pleased about the verdict. We're happy it's finally over.

"It's hard to believe as we have waited so long."

"I can't tell you how important it was to hear that the coroner classes it as murder. It's the whole point of all these years

"We're lucky to have made it this far, Jessie's father John added.

"The fight for justice was in our minds all the time, but it only became real two years ago."

The second inquest into Jessie's death heard she was "probably" tied to a tree and "possibly" sexually assaulted before she was murdered.

When Ms Earl's body was discovered, the only item of clothing found with her bones was her bra.

The inquest heard it was tied in a knot and could have been used as a "restraint, gag, weapon or ligature".

"I'm just so cross that I didn't ask for it. I was standing next to it, but I thought I couldn't ask police, Valerie added.

"It is a regret, although if we'd kept it, I think the whole course would have changed."

No-one has ever been arrested in connection with Jessie Earl's death.

During the initial Sussex Police investigation, a report was filed, citing that Ms Earl had most likely taken her own life. But Jessie's mother refutes that.

"This was false, and known to be so by Sussex Police, Val continued.

"Jessie was happy and loved life.

"The refusal to treat hear death as a murder, and that police report that said she had committed suicide, meant that whoever had killed Jessie was still at large, undetected, and free to do the same thing to other young women for eleven years.

"There was two stages to the last 42 years. There's missing Jessie, and being anxious about what happened, and about who did it and are they likely to do it again.

"And then there's the fact that there was nothing we could do.

Former Detective Mark Williams-Thomas has worked tirelessly with the family, calling on the police to treat Jessie's death as a murder investigation.

He believes there's no reason why Jessie's killer couldn't still be caught.

  • Former Detective Mark Williams-Thomas speaks to ITV Meridian.

Coroner James Healy-Pratt said "I wish to record and convey my Condolences to the Earl family, on behalf of the East Sussex Coroners Team.

"The Earl family have, through no fault of their own, had to endure nearly 42 years of waiting since their daughter Jessie was taken from them, for meaningful official recognition of how she died.

"The Earl family have at all times demonstrated remarkable resilience and stoicism, and are to be commended.

"I trust that the conclusion of this Inquest will provide a measure of comfort to the family."

Jo Shiner, Chief Constable of Sussex, said: "I extend my full and sincere apologies to Mr and Mrs Earl for the pain and distress they have endured and, of course, for the loss of their much-loved daughter Jessie.

"Today’s verdict of unlawful killing formally confirms the police decision in 2000 that Jessie was the victim of homicide. On two occasions, Sussex Police sought to have the original inquest re-opened.

"I fully accept the historic failures of Sussex Police in this case and acknowledge that the police investigations in 1980 and 1989 were inadequate, with some aspects wholly inadequate.

"More than anything, Jessie’s parents want to know what happened to her. The investigation remains open and I commit to ensuring any new lines of enquiry are effectively investigated.

"I have offered to meet with Mr and Mrs Earl to extend my apology in person and discuss what further assistance I can provide."

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