The Whole Truth
The Mail on Sunday article written by Lois Jenkins provides much food for thought
Like her piece in the Sunday Times three years previously, its timing is carefully calculated. Both items appeared during February, coinciding with different anniversaries of Billie-Jo’s murder; each is associated with a particular stage in the legal process.
The Sunday Times piece was a pre-emptive strike in advance of Siôn Jenkins’ second appeal. The Mail on Sunday article appeared three days after his acquittal, but was, clearly, written during the months beforehand. Its content suggests the expectation of a different outcome, mirroring and reinforcing the line taken by the prosecution at the retrials.
Its sensational headline reads “MURDER, SION AND ME”
Part one: 12 February 2006
Readers could be forgiven for thinking this is Lois Jenkins’ first excursion into media revelation. The article assumes their forgetfulness, or their complete ignorance of the fact that three years earlier she had shared her confidences with the Sunday Times .
Here, though, the narrative and the recollections are laced with frequent interjections about her former husband. Collectively, they amount to a portrait which exactly matches the image of Siôn Jenkins painted by the prosecution in the two retrials.
There are contradictions and continuity errors, but above all, weaving through both instalments, there is an insidious theme of blame.
The first instalment has two distinct sections. In the first, after explaining her reasons for writing, Lois Jenkins goes on to relate what happened on the day of Billie-Jo’s murder. At an early stage she depicts her husband as being ‘always remote from all this domestic activity.’ Yet she does this just after saying that Siôn was going to pick Lottie up after a music leson in the afternoon. She then states that it was his idea that the two older girls would earn pocket money, and he was to be the one to decide which jobs needed to be done.
It is also a fact that during that morning she summoned him to take a new chequebook to Safeways after she had taken one empty of cheques.
Before the tragedy of the murder happened, he often drove his daughters to school, and there were times when, at the end of a day, Siôn Jenkins’ daughters would be seen at his workplace, waiting for him to take them home. Those who knew him would have said that he certainly played his part in family activity.
Pointing the finger
Lois Jenkins set out to present her former husband in the most negative and sinister light possible. Describing her husband in the immediate aftermath of the murder she says “he seemed strangely cold and distant. His eyes were grey as slate with pinpoint pupils”.
This apparently vivid recollection contrasts with her subsequent comment that she ‘still can’t rememeber the exact sequence of events” and her observation that the mind, when dealing with terrible shock, temporarily shuts down. There are other similar examples: “He offered no comfort. I felt let down and also faintly embarrassed. I wondered if our friends had noticed his detachment” It is extraordinary that in the midst of such trauma she worried about other people’s opinion of Siôn’s reaction.
Again she stresses the look in his eyes “It had no trace of emotion”.
And then comes the blame, thinly disguised as concern: “I also felt a great sadness for Siôn because I had left Billie in his care. Why had he not taken her with him when he went to pick up Lottie?” The accusatory tone is unmistakeable.
She tells how the night after the Press conference (which, she stresses, her husband had insisted they take part in) she lay there “thinking that it must be him”. Why this thought occurred with such certainty is never explained, but it is validated next day over a drink with a friend who said she had thought the same thing.
Was that all it took to convince her?
The focus shifts in the second section, to an overview of the years of their marriage. This gives Lois Jenkins ample opportunity to embellish her portrait of a cold, controlling man, seeking constantly to be in authority. She presents herself, meanwhile, as naive, unworldyóand without flaws. “Had I been better prepared for life”, she says, “I think I would have taken more time getting to know Siôn before becoming so involved”.
She does not make clear who is being reproached for this failureóher own parents, perhaps.
It is in this section, though, that she loses credibility. Her relentless effort to incriminate Siôn Jenkins prompts the thought that she is, perhaps, protesting too much.
Having said that the early years of their marriage were ‘quite traumatic’ she also says that “It was an exciting time. I loved having the children. My four daughters were born within the first six years of our marriage.”
Could both statements be true?
She observes that her husband could function ìonly if he was unchallenged and in complete control.î She describes him as “what I would call violent”, though she is not specific.
Neither does she say whether she mentioned this important fact during the lengthy and detailed Social Services process of interviews and visits to assess the suitability of this family for the placement of a vulnerable child.
There is no credible reason why someone with Lois Jenkins’ professional knowledge and background would deliberately conceal something so serious. As an inspector of children’s services (her description) she would be well aware of the risks involved. Is she saying that she knowingly put a child in danger?
Despite her sustained description of this domineering tyrant she then asks the reader to believe there was a sudden change for the better. She seems to be contradicting her own earlier comment. “Eventually I challenged Siôn about his anger. Our marriage seemd to improve after that, and the dynamic of the family changed. Things got dramatically better then.”
Just like that?
This suden reversal is a narrative necessity: Lois Jenkins has to pre-empt the questions about why she introduced Billie-Jo into the dysfunctional household she has described.
Her criticisms of her husband continue through the account of moving down to Hastings. She intimates that she and the children enjoyed an idyllic life in their new environment while Siôn’s megalomania grew. Suddenly, it seems, they ìargued endlessly over his strange behaviourî and Lois confided in her mother that on occasions she feared for her safety.
She reports that Billie-Jo had told her “that if Siôn and I fell out, she might not be able to stay on with the family.” adding that it was for Billie’s sake that she wanted to carry on.
The bizarre logic of that statement is eclipsed by her next statement about the vacancy for headteacher’s job at William Parker School. She comments: “I knew that if Siôn got the job he would be less explosive for a few more years.” When he was offered the job she states “I thought it was a wonderful way out for all of us.”
She is at pains to mention that he was only verbally offered the job. This enables her to present the theory (which was part of the prosecution case at the third trial, though not previously) that Bille’s murder was somehow linked to Siôn Jenkins’ false CV and an alleged anxiety that his lies would be revealed.
If the jury had believed the prosecution on this issue and had returned a guilty verdict, Lois Jenkins, by including this story, would in effect have been underlining the point. As it is, it sounds absurd and vindictive.
The first instalment of this ‘devastating account’ as it is headlined, ends on the morning of the murder. Lois Jenkins is determined to establish the distance between her husband and herself. “Relations between Siôn and myself were frosty, but nothing too unusual.”
Part 2: 19 February 2006
The second part of the story appeared the following week, ten days after Siôn Jenkins’ acquittal.
It amounts to an elaborate justification of her own behaviour, and an attempt to create a gulf between herself and her former husband. At every turn she seeks to implicate him. She explains that she decided never to ask her daughters what had happened even though she really wanted to know. This suggests an extraordinary, almost incredible restraint. She also told her daughters she would pass on to the police any relevant comment they might make. and describes listening in to their conversations about the day of the murder, and the comments which seemed to cast doubt on their father’s account of events(which she duly passed on to the police).
She goes on to list the false details on his CV, making much of his untruthfulness as if this was further evidence that he must be the murderer.
Money, too, plays its part in her anger. She states indignantly ìSiôn has never paid any form of maintenance.î As if, in the circumstances, he could have. It is as though she is unaware that when a man is serving a life sentence he has no income. He has nothing.
She is also unfairly dismissive of the financial help she and her daughters received from his family. Perhaps she feels able to do so because she is safe in the knowledge that they would never dignify such comments by a public response.
Cruelly, she even seeks to undermine his relationship with his daughters by claiming “he has never shown any concern about how the children are or how we are surviving.” This is simply not true. Over the years Siôn Jenkins has desperately tried to stay in contact with his daughters, writing regular letters until the stage when their direct involvement in the legal proceedings meant that he could be accused of trying to influence their evidence.
She asserts that her daughters “didn’t appear to openly grieve the loss of their father” and reports their apparent indifference when he was found guilty of murder. Of herself she says “I was always certain what the result would be.”
Such certainty is disturbing ; it reveals much about the writer.
She describes her emotions after the conviction, insisting that “We have never felt any malice towards him”, while describing her anger at him and saying “It was hard to feel sympathy for him.”
It is clear that she wanted this to be the end of the matter. “Siôn was taken off to prison at Belmarsh, and I thought that at last we were over the worst, that we would be able to get back to so-called normality” — as if ‘normality’ could so easily be resumed.
There is no sense of the magnitude of these events, of lives at stake. Siôn Jenkins’ struggle for justice is dismissed as a tiresome interruption. Her antipathy is unyielding.
She goes on to speak of her divorce, and how she ‘then’ met a new partner, the implication being that this happened some time later. This is not a truthful representation of events.
Her new relationship existed and was a widely-known fact in Hastings much earlier. The Daily Mail of 13 September 1999 ran a substantial story about how Lois Jenkins had found happiness in what by then was clearly an already well-established relationship.
She writes disparagingly of the work of the CCRC which led to a successful second appeal. She claims — incorrectly — there was only one ground for a second appeal, and that was her character. There were, in fact, three. The appeal actually succeeded because of the flawed forensic evidence which had initially convicted Siôn Jenkins.
She recalls the two occasions when her daughters visited their father in Wakefield, and complaining about her experience of waiting for them says, with unconscious irony “Prison is a horrible place”.
She tells how she gave video evidence from New Zealand at the second trial, but felt disillusioned that “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” was misleading, since some of her evidence was ruled inadmissible.
She comments bitterly that all she was allowed to say was yes or no to the question asking if Siôn Jenkins had a temper. She asks “The whole truth? Nothing but the truth?” The implication is that there is much more to tell.
The interesting question is why, in this ‘devastating account’ in which she could tell everything there is to be told, she chooses to do no more than hint : she relies on innuendo.
Through both instalments runs a thread of resentment that the struggle for justice went on and on she “endured his endless court appeals” It is as though he was being peversely difficult by insisting that he was innocent. Shortly after Siôn Jenkins was charged with murder in 1997 Lois Jenkins had written to him urging him to confess, in order to bring things to a speedy end.
In this account she presents each stage of the legal process as a frutrating obstacle preventing her from getting back to normal and getting on with her life. Any conclusion, it seemed, would do. Her resentment at the persistence of the efforts to overturn his conviction is very evident.
She refers to her concern at “the oppressive thought that the case was unresolved”. How much more oppressive for SiônJenkins, serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit.
Lois Jenkins’ record of events is chilling in its unremitting hostility. Never once in this extended narrative is the reader given a hint of any loyalty to Siôn Jenkins, or doubt that he was capable of such brutality. Compassion is entirely absent; in such unblinking certainty there is something of the fundamentalist.