Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Murder of Stephen Jennings

This was a missing child case that occurred in 1962 but was not solved until a curious dog unearthed remains in 1988.  Stephen Jennings was just three years old when his father reported him missing in the West Yorkshire village of Gomersal, a few miles outside of Bradford.  A very intensive search was made by Police and volunteers, including the father, William Jennings.  The toddler was never found.  Just over twenty five years later,  Malcolm Burton was out walking with his little terrier dog by a small wooded spot when the dog started digging in earnest.  Mr Burton went to see what his dog had gotten excited about, he moved small rocks and bracken, and thought it was a dolls head at first, then realised to his horror, it was a small skull.

    Police were quickly on the scene, and a forensic team carefully removed stones, bracken and soil, to reveal a child`s skeleton.  It was quickly established that this was the missing toddler, Stephen Jennings.  The history of the family then came to light.  The Jennings` had three children and all were abused by their father, regularly.  After Stephen went missing, the abuse continued, resulting in both parents being jailed for eighteen months.  After they emerged from jail, the wife divorced her husband, with him moving to the Midlands.

    Police travelled to the Midlands to see William Jennings and the detective in charge, had been a young Constable involved in the initial search for Stephen.  They decided to try a strategy in order to get him to confess.  Rather than confront him and have him clam up or a Solicitor to advise him to say nothing, they decided to say nothing and let his mind take over.  As they got closer and closer to Gomersal, he decided to start talking, eventually admitting it.  They made notes as to what he said, had him check what they had written and he signed it.  He appeared in court in 1989, claiming that he snapped when Stephen soiled his bed but this was rejected by the Prosecution and the Jury and he was sentenced to life.  It took twenty five years but thank god for the curiosity of a dog.