Billie-Jo Foster Father Sues For £500,000
Simon Jenkins is suing the Home Office for up to £500,000 in compensation over his nine year battle to prove he did not kill his foster daughter. The 49-year-old former deputy headmaster was cleared last year of murdering 13-year-old Billie Jo when an Old Bailey jury couldn’t decide on his guilt.
Now Mr Jenkins – who is currently writing a book about his ordeal – has submitted a hefty compensation claim to the Home Office.
The enormous lawsuit is based on loss of earnings and a sum to compensate him for his wrongful imprisonment.
He spent seven years in custody after being accused of his foster daughter’s murder. A decision by the Home Office adjudicator is expected soon.
Under guidelines £500,000 is the maximum that Mr Jenkins could receive.
By contrast the maximum pay-out to the parent of a murdered child is just £11,000.
The moves are likely to infuriate both Billie-Jo’s natural parents and the family of his millionairess second wife, who called Mr Jenkins ‘a gold digger’ when he married Miss Ferneyhough.
Billie Jo was beaten to death in February 1997 while painting patio doors at the Jenkins family home.
Mr Jenkins has always maintained that he discovered her body when he returned from a trip to a DIY store.
After spending a year on remand, he was found guilty of the schoolgirl’s murder in 1998 and jailed for life.
He was freed six years later when the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and granted bail.
In February last year he finally walked free after a jury failed to reach a verdict at his second retrial, despite deliberating for more than 30 hours.
Days after his acquittal, his former wife, Lois, who now lives with the couple’s four daughters in Tasmania, Australia, revealed how he had beaten both her and their children.
A diary by Mrs Jenkins alleged that her former husband had a history of domestic violence, violent mood swings and a fascination for corporal punishment.
She had given similar evidence during his appeal hearing but the allegations were never heard by the jury. In a TV interview after last year’s acquittal Mr Jenkins flatly denied being a wife beater.
During the first trial, it emerged that he had faked his CV in order to get his deputy head’s post in Hastings, East Sussex. Mr Jenkins has since put this down to ‘stupidity’.
In February 2005, while he was awaiting the first of his two retrials, he secretly wed second wife Christina Ferneyhough, a 56-year-old millionaire art dealer.
The couple now live at her home in Lymington, Hampshire.
Mr Jenkins now fills his days writing about his experiences behind bars and his nine-year battle to prove his innocence. He hopes to land a publishing deal worth £250,000.
A friend of the freed ex-teacher said last night: “His book is coming along very nicely and he hopes to have completed it very soon, perhaps within a few weeks.”
Lawyers acting for Jenkins have filed a ‘miscarriage of justice’ lawsuit against the government that will seek to recoup his lost earnings and a sum to compensate him for his wrongful imprisonment.
The source said: “He could have been a highly successful and very well-paid head teacher now and that would have put him in an extremely high income bracket.
“He does not consider a compensation package nearing £500,000 unreasonable.”
Speaking about the claim last year, Mr Jenkins’ lawyer, Neil O’May, a solicitor at Bindman & Partners in London, confirmed they were examining two areas of possible action.
“There is the issue of compensation from the Home Office for the lost years and which would be based on a miscarriage of justice. Then there may be civil proceedings against the police for their failure to carry out their public duties.”
Mr O’May declined to comment on the compensation claim.
After his acquittal, Mr Jenkins said his treatment was “despicable” as he was “vilified” over the course of the three murder trials and two appeals.
He said he wanted to see justice done and Billie-Jo’s murderer ‘brought to task’.
He went on: “Of course my character has been vilified over nine years and that was laid out before the jury as a reason why they should convict me of murder.
“Personally, I think it is despicable.”
Sussex Police said that the force had not been criticised by the trial judge, adding that its conduct had been commended.
Last night Lyn Costello, of victims group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said: “£500,000 does seem an awful lot. What about Billie Jo’s family? It was just as terrible for them and I’m sure they’ve received very little. There has always been a huge question mark over that case.
“I don’t think he should go looking for money, he should be more interested in finding who killed his foster daughter.
“This level of potential award highlights the disparity between miscarriage of justice cases and victims of crime.”