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Welcome to the world of the Vincent D'Onofrio obsessed - and a bit of real life thrown in.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Predator On The Loose

Yesterday I made a phone call to a police incident room regarding a crime about which I really knew nothing at all. But something about the disappearance last weekend of recent graduated post-grad architecture student Joanna Yeates rang a bell in my head with a giant clang.

Joanna disappeared from her flat in Bristol, in the west of England, near the border with Wales. Her movements for the evening were documented by the receipts in her purse, which was in her flat, along with her mobile phone and other items without which she would not have left home, including her coat.

Thirty years ago, I was enrolled in a yoga evening class. The teacher, whose name was Valerie Earl, had a daughter Jessie at art college on the south coast. One day Jessie disappeared. Her movements were documented for the time up to her disappearance, including dropping off a repeat prescription request for her inhaler. Her keys, bag and other items were left in her flat.

These two disappearances, 30 years apart, seemed so similar, that I couldn't get the coincidence out of my mind. What if a serial killer has been disappearing women throughout those 30 years, and no one has noticed a link?

So I phoned the incident room and left details of the earlier case.

Sadly for Joanna's parents, their daughter's body has today been found. There must be a good chance of the police finding evidence to nail the abductor.

Even more sadly for Jessie's parents, her remains were not found for 9 years, by which time any evidence was long gone.

John and Valerie Earl

I saw Jessie's much older, wizened mother in passing last week, shortly before this other girl disappeared. I didn't speak to her. I ran out of things to say long ago. Her pain must have been renewed on hearing about this latest case, especially since her daughter's killer has still not been nailed, despite the hopes expressed in this 2-year-old article from the Scottish Daily Record I found on the internet:

Parents of murdered student Jessie Earl hope end may be in sight after 28 year hunt for her killer
Dec 7 2008 By Lesley Roberts, Sunday Mail

IT has been 28 long years since student Jessie Earl vanished, leaving her parents in unending agony.

All that was ever found of the 22-year-old were her skeletal remains and her bra, tied in a knot where it was used to bind her wrists.

To mum Valerie and dad John it seemed unlikely the mystery of her death would ever be solved.

But now serial killer Peter Tobin stares back at them from newspaper pages, a prime suspect for Jessie's murder.

They wonder if they are looking into the face of the monster who killed their daughter.

John, 80, said: "We now know he was in the area when Jessie went missing and we know that he's done other murders."

Tobin's conviction at the High Court in Dundee last week ended the 17-year investigation into Vicky's disappearance but it sparked a series of inquiries into other potential victims.

And 500 miles away, at their home in south London, Valerie and John know their daughter is high on that list.

"A few months ago police asked for samples of Jessie's clothing and took DNA samples from us," said Valerie, 76, a retired yoga teacher.

"The thing I feel saddest about is that there seems to be so little left of Jessie to make the connection to Tobin or anyone else. But you never know. Things have changed so much since Jessie went missing."

Since May 15, 1980, the day she disappeared, Jessie's parents have kept scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings about her.

They include the coverage of 1989 when the young woman's bones were found in an overgrown hedge at Beachy Head, on the south coast of England.

They had lain there for nine years, keeping her killer's secret.

Valerie said: "I've always believed there was more to come.

I felt that some day someone would say something or do something to give us the answers.

"I wasn't sure we would live to see it or whether our son James would get the news. But with Tobin we feel, 'Maybe this time'."

Second-year student Jessie was studying graphics at Eastbourne College of Art and Design, in Sussex, when she went missing.

She called her mother from a phone box at the seafront on Wednesday evening to say she'd be travelling home to London on Friday but she never arrived.

At the time Tobin was living 25 miles along the coast in Brighton.

Valerie said: "If she had changed her mind about coming home, she would have called.

"So I caught the train down to Eastbourne on Saturday to see if she was all right.

"When I got to her flat, I phoned John right away to say, 'There's something wrong'."

Jessie's bedsit flat was empty, abandoned as if she had just popped out for a minute.

Her dirty dinner dishes sat on a table, her book and reading glasses lay on the floor and her purse was on the bed. Police swung into action, searching her room and sweeping the area with helicopters and sniffer dogs.

"People had seen her on the preceding days," said Valerie.

"Some even remembered seeing her in the phone box on Wednesday evening.

"But after a certain point on the Thursday, no one saw her at all. It was as if a big hand had come out of the sky and taken her."

The Earls mounted their own campaign, producing a 'Missing Person' poster to be displayed around the country.

They appeared on Terry Wogan's BBC chat show, took part in Crimewatch and even pursued lines of inquiry offered by psychics.

But there was no trace until a man trying to retrieve his son's kite from an overgrown thicket on Beachy Head cliff top made a gruesome discovery.

Theatre historian John said: "He saw the skull first then found the rest of the bones. It must have been terrible for him.

"When we were told the remains were Jessie's, my immediate feeling was relief. I knew I should be shocked but I wasn't. It was like a weight had been lifted from us.

"It was only when we heard she had been murdered that it welled up again."

The thicket was torn up and the exposed soil sieved for clues but only Jessie's bra was found.

An expert told how the knots in which it was tied suggested it had been used to bind her wrists.

Some of her possessions have never been found - her silver ring, watch, asthma inhaler and brown leather bag.

In 2000 a case review failed to identify a culprit. Valerie and John were finally allowed to bury her remains, fearing the last chance of justice for Jessie had gone.

Then Polish student Angelika Kluk was murdered in Glasgow and Falkirk teenager Vicky Hamilton's body was found in a garden in Margate, Kent. Tobin got two life sentences for the crimes and police across Britain began to look again at their unsolved murders.

Valerie said: "Before Jessie's body was found, I would have said anything, done anything, gone anywhere to find out what happened.

"I don't feel like that now. We know she's dead. We know she was killed. We want to know the rest."


JoJo said...

Wow, that's so sad. :( That's cool that you called in the tip though. I mean, you just never know right?

Ducky said...

My Christmas wish for these families is to find peace...

Thanks for posting the story, Val.

Anonymous said...

Very good that you pointed that out to the authorities. Research I found tells that he admitted to a prison psychiatrist of killing 48 women. He cannot be tried for any of them because of the "double jeopardy" rule they have in Scotland. They are trying to overturn that. Interesting case. Happy Holidays, Val...all the best in the coming year!

Tess said...

Diane was telling me about the missing woman today...Lets hope they can bring her killer to justice.

Anonymous said...

Oh Wow, so sad. Those poor people. I hope they can put the mystery to rest finally.

Ruby said...

So sad...

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