Family of murdered Eastbourne student launch legal fight this month

The family of an Eastbourne art student who was murdered and lay undiscovered for nine years are launching a legal challenge to have her inquest verdict overturned.

Monday, 9th December 2019, 3:26 pm
Jessie Earl, whose remains were discovered in undergrowth at Beachy Head nine years after she disappeared in Eastbourne.
Jessie Earl, whose remains were discovered in undergrowth at Beachy Head nine years after she disappeared in Eastbourne.

John and Val Earl, who have spent the last 40 years looking for justice for their daughter Jessie, want a fresh inquest into the 22-year-old’s death.

And on December 23 the couple will ask the Attorney General to refer the matter to the High Court to officially quash the open verdict ruled by the East Sussex coroner in 1989 and order a new hearing be opened.

Three prominent legal personalities are backing the Earls along with investigative journalist and former detective Mark Williams-Thomas. A GoFundMe page has also been created to help pay for the legal fight.

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Jessie disappeared from her flat in Upperton Gardens in May 1980. Nine years later, her naked remains were found on Beachy Head and alongside her skeletal remains, was her own bra, believed to have been used to tie her wrists.

The bra and soil collected from where Jessie’s remains were found were destroyed after the 1989 police investigation was closed.

At an inquest four months after her death, the coroner recorded an open verdict.

But in 2001 Sussex police undertook a review and recorded Jessie’s case as murder which the family says means an open verdict cannot be allowed to stand.

Mark Williams-Thomas.

John Earl said, “Jessie didn’t get herself killed by accident, suicide or anything else. She was naked, she had been tied up with her bra. She was murdered. We are in a later year and we need a new Inquest, we need to get justice for Jessie.”

Mark Williams, who featured Jessie’s case on the ITV/Netflix series The Investigator and pledged to do all he could to help the family get a new inquest, said, “Mr and Mrs Earl are now aged 89 and 91 respectively. They are desperate to have the opportunity during their lifetime, to correct the 1989 record of inquest so the findings of fact and conclusion reflect the true circumstances in which their daughter came by her death.

“We hope to raise funds to retain our leading team to take on this case to the end - QC Stephen Kamlish, specialist inquest barrister Christopher Williams and lawyer David Wells – as well as funds for a forensic pathologist.

“We are ready to submit an application to the Attorney General, for him to accept it and refer the matter to the High Court which will them be asked to quash the original inquest verdict and order a new one.

“Very few are successful but we are quietly confident we will be successful. We have painstakingly pulled together evidence and making this application with a view to it being successful.

“The evidence we have is compelling, none more so than the fact the police have now recorded Jessie’s death as murder and therefore an open verdict cannot be allowed to stand. The outcome of the coroner’s inquest is a massive thing for the family and we are seeking to put this right.”

Jessie’s family have also backed a call to exhume her skeletal remains so a fresh coroner’s investigation could enable DNA to be extracted from bone marrow by a pathologist in order to produce the best possible DNA profile for Jessie for use in searching police data bases for matching DNA in other police homicide investigations.

In recent years Jessie’s death has been linked to serial killer Peter Tobin but Sussex Police insists there is nothing to link him and Jessie’s disappearance and death.

The Gofundme page is at