Dr Arnon Bentovim
Siôn Jenkins was charged with Billie-Jo’s murder on 14 March 1997.
Three days later, on 17 March, two police constables visited Dr Arnon Bentovim.
On 21 March 1997 Dr Bentovim and his wife Marianne, a social work consultant and family therapist, sent a report to sussex Police. It made a number of very damaging allegations about Siôn Jenkins.
On 20 March 1997, the day before the report was actually delivered, and based on verbal advice from Dr Bentovim, the police interviewed Siôn Jenkins’ four daughters, then aged between 7 and 12. This interview took place with the agreement and in the presence of Lois Jenkins, their mother. The family’s social worker Ian Vinall, failed to attend the interview, at which information prejudicial to their father was given to the children. They were told by the police that it was likely their father had killed Billie-Jo.
At the first appeal the judges stated in their summing up that they agreed with the trial judge’s criticism of the police for the way they conducted the interview, “…and would be inclined to express our concerns about this aspect of the investigation rather less circumspectly”. In other words, they felt that concern should have been more explicitly stated. That pivotal interview, at such an early stage in the investigation, had consequences which influenced events over the next nine years.
Dr Arnon Bentovim had never met Siôn Jenkins or his daughters for assessment. In writing his report about them he did not consult the social services team which had been regularly monitoring Billie-Jo’s foster care placement with the Jenkins family. Nor did he see any social services records.
His report included the factually untrue statement that Siôn Jenkins held no relevant qualifications as a teacher. In fact he had a teaching certificate, and an MSc in education management obtained in 1992.
The source of Bentovim’s information had apparently been the two police officers who visited him four days earlier, and the content of his hugely damaging report comprised a series of uninformed opinions and speculation.
Siôn Jenkins argues that to prepare a report in this way for police investigating a murder case was bound seriously to jeopardise his ability to establish his innocence. As such, he asserts, it was a “flagrant violation ” of Dr Bentovim’s professional responsibilities. He says “It was emotionally devastating for me to read Dr Bentovim’s report. Obviously, I knew it was all nonsense, but nevertheless the damage caused to my young daughters by his report and his recommendations was immense.”
Professor David Southall
Professor Southall was called as an expert witness by the Crown at Siôn Jenkins’ first trial in 1998. The start of the trial had been postponed at the Crown’s request so that it could engage a neurosurgeon to respond to a report from a defence neurosurgeon stating that Billie-Jo could still have been alive when she was found. However, it was not a neurosurgeon whom the Crown subsequently called to give evidence, but Professor Southall. He gave the impression to the court that he was qualified to deal with this area of evidence. He told the judge and jury that Jenkins’s defence (that Billie-Jo had expired a bloodspray on to him as she was dying) was ‘impossible’. In fact, Southall was not competent to deal with these issues. He was a paediatrician. He was not a specialist in the breathing patterns of older children, teenagers and adults. Nor had he had any experience in the treatment of serious head injuries in children or adults.
Siôn Jenkins comments “Professor Southall’s evidence to the court at my first trial was untrue. He may not have known it was untrue, but that’s because he wasn’t qualified to give the evidence he did give”.