Jessie Earl: Coroner’s murder to rule ‘justice’ says family

Jessie Earl’s remains were found nine years after her disappearance, and a 1989 inquest returned an open verdict

The parents of a woman who went missing in 1980 have told how she has now “gained justice” after a coroner ruled she was murdered.

Jessie Earl’s body was found in the undergrowth at Beachy Head near Eastbourne, East Sussex in 1989 – nine years after she disappeared from her nearby bed.

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The 22-year-old’s remains were found in a dense thicket with no objects or clothing other than her bra, which was tied in a bun.

The parents of Jessie Earl, who went missing in 1980, say their daughter “gained justice” after a coroner ruled her death was homicide.

A hearing late last year revealed that serial killer Peter Tobin “was suspected of being at large in the Eastbourne area in the 1980s”.

It was said that a DNA profile from Ms Earl’s parents was compared to unidentified DNA related to an operation to examine Tobin, but this found no matches.

The 1989 investigation was “flawed from the start”

East Sussex Assistant Coroner James Healy-Pratt ruled Thursday that her death was a wrongful death by murder.

He also described the Sussex Police investigation in 1989 as “flawed” and said the Earl family had been “victims of a serious injustice”.

The conclusion of the inquest comes after a second inquest into the death of the 22-year-old at Eastbourne Town Hall which began on Tuesday.

An inquest into Ms Earl’s death in 1989 recorded an open verdict after the police inquest.

But the new inquest found Ms Earl was “probably” tied to a tree and “possibly” sexually assaulted before she was murdered.

Mr Healy-Pratt concluded on Thursday that the scientific cause of death was “undetermined” but he will record the conclusion that Ms Earl was murdered.

He said: “I am satisfied with the evidence that Jessie was murdered, that she was killed by a third party intent on killing her.”

He went on to say that the Sussex Police investigation in 1989 was, according to the police, “flawed from the start” as the lead investigating officer “disregarded the possibility that Jessie was murdered from the start”.

Jessie Earl’s original missing persons poster created by her parents.

“Jessie got justice out of it”

In 2000 Sussex Police reopened the case under the name Operation Silk and concluded that Mrs Earl was murdered but no one was arrested.

In December last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the original inquiry should be overturned and a new one instituted.

Her parents, John and Valerie Earl, who are in their 90s, told the PA news agency that the completion of the investigation was “the most important day”.

When asked how they were doing, Ms Earl said: “Excited, certainly very pleased.”

“Yes, a bit weary,” added Mr. Earl.

“It’s a great statement from the coroner that covers every single point we’ve been concerned about for about 30 years.

“Every single point – he left nothing behind and he clarified absolutely everything that was on our minds.

“So it’s a great result and the fact that we now have a wrongful death finding, rather than what the death certificate says, which is causes of death unknown, is a triumph for us because it means that justice was done for Jessie this.

“It’s been a very long road,” he added.

Ms Earl added: “It really is the most important day, if we hadn’t had today we would have just gone ahead with that death certificate in the draw and I would have ranted about it forever.”

Mr Earl said: “We had the verdict that we wanted and it’s more than just the verdict, it’s all around it, all the comments he made were wonderful.”

Jessie Earl at the age of 21.

“There’s someone else out there”

Asked if they felt the police had been held accountable for their handling of the case, Mr Earl said: “Not really no. I think they have to do it themselves.

Ms Earl described what her daughter was like, saying she was “a bit eccentric”, “an original”, “great” and “wonderful”.

As for what’s next, Ms Earl said: “It has to be closure,” but added, “I can’t help but feel like it’s not the end.”

She said the conclusion of the investigation “can go into the family folder and our grandchildren will be able to see what happened to their aunt.”

“I think that’s probably the end of it unless someone shows up. I think those last three days have probably been as much as we can handle.”

“Whoever it is, there’s someone else out there,” Mr. Earl added.

Jessie Earl’s parents, John and Valerie Earl. Jessie Earl: Coroner’s murder to rule ‘justice’ says family


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