Ex-detective links Eastbourne disappearances to serial killer

Louise Kay
Louise Kay

Police chiefs have defended a decision not to search a house once occupied by serial killer Peter Tobin despite an ITV investigation linking him to the disappearance of Polegate teenager Louise Kay and murder of Eastbourne’s Jessie Earl.

Ex-detective turned investigative reporter Mark Williams-Thomas believes Tobin is behind the two unsolved mysteries.

Jessie Earl ENGSUS00120120621101544

Jessie Earl ENGSUS00120120621101544

Louise was 18 when she disappeared after a night out in Eastbourne in 1988 and Jessie Earl’s remains were found in thick undergrowth at Beachy Head in 1989 – nine years after she went missing from her flat in Upperton Gardens.

Tobin was living in nearby Brighton around the time of the two women’s disappearance and wants Sussex Police to carry out a forensic investigation of a house in the city where he is known to have lived. Brighton council, which owns the house, and police say that will not happen.

A police spokesperson said, “Following the extensive scoping exercise by police across the UK between 2008 and 2010, focused on Peter Tobin, at this time there is still no evidence or intelligence to suggest any specific person is responsible for the death of Jessie Earl or the disappearance of Louise Kay.

“The current position in Sussex is that the two cases form part of our crime review team’s schedule of unresolved major cases and they are assessed every two years to examine any new information provided or consider advances in investigative techniques, that would make a re-investigations viable. Currently no new information has been provided in these cases and there are no outstanding lines of enquiry. We will never close these cases until and unless some resolution and closure is found for them. We will always examine any new information or forensic opportunities which might lead to new lines of enquiry whenever they arise.”

Sussex Police say the next scheduled assessment of the unresolved cases is due to take place later this year, 2018, and anyone who has any new information that could lead to new lines of enquiry can always contact Sussex Police via email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call 101 at any time, quoting Operation Silk for Jessie Earl or Operation Azure for Louise Kay.

Any information would be researched, cross-referred, and assessed, and further enquiries carried out where appropriate.

Jessie Earl was reported missing from her address in Upperton Gardens on May 15 1980.

Extensive enquiries were carried out and the disappearance was publicised, but there was no trace of Jessie at that time.

Remains of Jessie’s body were found at Beachy Head in March 1989. An Incident Room was set up and detailed enquiries were carried out. A subsequent postmortem found the cause of death to be unascertainable. A detailed investigation was carried out and at an inquest in July that year the coroner returned an open verdict.

The death was recorded by police at that time as a suspicious death but in January 2000, as part of a policy of re-opening a number of previously unresolved cases, and following discussion with Jessie’s parents, a full reinvestigation of the case began.

Detailed forensic, scene, witness and pathology enquiries were carried out and the case was given national as well as local publicity.

At that stage the case was formally recorded by police as murder, and following the re-investigation a report was submitted to the coroner, who considered holding a new inquest but declined to do so. There were no further developments at the time.

Louise Kay did not return home to her address in Lynholm Rd, Polegate, on June 24 1988 and despite an investigation by Sussex Police, Louise has not as yet been found. There was a full investigation and publicity at the time of her disappearance but no evidence emerged to show what had happened to her.

Despite intensive enquiries no trace was ever found of the Ford Fiesta that Louise was driving when last seen.

In 1994 a BBC Crimewatch re-construction of the case was broadcast, but the response was disappointing and produced no new useful lines of enquiry.

When the Jessie Earl case was being re-investigated in 2000, the possibility of Louise’s disappearance being linked was examined but no such links were identified.

In August 2004, as part of a review of missing person cases, a further investigation took place by Eastbourne CID. There were no developments.

In 2005, following a further review, a Major Crime Branch re-investigation was set up. All previous lines of enquiry were re-examined and other potential leads were followed up, but there were no developments.

It was during Operation Anagram – between 2008 and 2010, as part of the national police scoping project looking at unsolved murders, Sussex Police reviewed and made yet further enquiries about the Jessie Earl and Louise Kay cases. This included searches of two addresses, in Brighton and Portslade, but nothing was found and there were no further developments.

Enquiries were made about several addresses and following detailed enquiries about and visits to every address, it was decided after careful consideration to focus full forensic searches on the addresses at Marine Parade, Brighton, and Station Road, Portslade.

Those two addresses were intensively searched, including the use of GPR, and nothing suspicious was found.

Regarding the latest ITV investigation, a police spokesperson told the Herald, “In relation to interest at 22a Windlesham Road in Brighton from a TV documentary team in 2017, Sussex Police declined the offer to be involved any search they decided to make at that address and did not advise or direct the local authority not to allow such a search.

“However we made it clear to the programme makers that we would expect them to contact us immediately if a search went ahead and if they were to find anything they felt was suspicious, and to halt any further action until we had the opportunity to thoroughly assess the situation and if necessary to investigate further. We never heard anything further from them.