A FRESH inquest will take place into the death of a student who vanished more than 40 years ago, after her parents criticised a police investigation as “woefully inadequate”.

Jessie Earl was 22 when she went missing from her flat in Upperton Gardens, Eastbourne, in May 1980.

The art student’s naked body was not found until March 1989, in dense undergrowth on the heath at Beachy Head.

Ms Earl’s bra was found alongside her skeletal remains and her family believes it was used to tie her wrists together.

A post mortem examination in 1989 found the cause of death to be unascertainable and an inquest held four months later recorded an open verdict.

Her now elderly parents John and Valerie Earl spent years trying to overturn its finding, believing their daughter was murdered.

In 2000, following a second police investigation dubbed Operation Silk, Sussex Police concluded that Ms Earl was murdered.

After a High Court hearing in London on Tuesday, Lord Justice Warby, sitting with Mr Justice Saini and His Honour Judge Teague QC – the chief coroner for England and Wales – said they had concluded that there should be an order quashing the original inquest and directing a fresh one is held.

He said the judges will hand down their reasons in a written judgment at a later date.

Stephen Kamlish QC, representing Ms Earl’s parents, who joined Tuesday’s hearing via video-link, said their daughter’s case “should have resulted in the verdict of unlawful killing” in 1989 and this was the “only possible” explanation from evidence available to the police and coroner.

He told the court that the senior investigating officer handling her case “instructed his officers not to treat this case as one of homicidal murder”, claiming the inquiry was “twisted away from the truth."

He claimed: “lines of inquiry which could and were likely to lead to the truth were deliberately not followed."

Adding that the police investigation was “woefully inadequate” and that there was “a search for the truth that was undermined from within."

After the discovery of Ms Earl’s body, the police investigation was “shut down” after four weeks, with 103 lines of inquiry left uncompleted, Mr Kamlish said.

He said this was part of the “deliberate and strategic nature of this inquiry not wanting to conclude that homicide was the most likely reason for Jessie’s death”.

Mr Kamlish highlighted evidence that before she disappeared Ms Earl was “nervous” about the possibility of a “middle aged man” she had met while out walking later “knocking on her door”.

He said: "The first thing a competent police officer directing an investigation” would do would be to “identify that person”.

“This man would certainly have been somebody of interest,” he said, adding that not classing a crime as homicide meant “a large number of inquiries do not get undertaken”.

Mr Kamlish said it was “extraordinary” that a pathologist was not present at the 1989 inquest and said her GP was missing from a list of witnesses.

He claimed that on the inquest form there was a “deliberate avoidance” of a mention in relation to homicide “as if it was a taboo subject”.

He added: “It’s a disgrace both to the family and to the public that the coroner didn’t take the trouble to paint a true short and relevant picture of Jessie’s happy go lucky life”.

Mr Kamlish pointed Ms Earl was “a very innocent person” that wrote hundreds of pages of journals showing she was someone “full of love of nature” who wrote “joyful” poetry.

He said that the open verdict pointed towards Ms Earl taking her own life, and said in written submissions that the coroner should have ruled out suicide.

A report from a behavioural crime analyst, referred to in the Operation Silk report, concluded that “there was a high probability that Jessie was strangled by her own clothing” - said Mr Kamlish.

Mr Kamlish noted in written arguments that convicted serial killer Peter Tobin, was “suspected of having been at large in the Eastbourne area during the 1980s” and “is known to have targeted female strangers and stripped and tied up his victims”.

He said a DNA profile from Ms Earl’s parents was compared to unidentified DNA in relation to operation Anagram investigating Tobin, but this produced no matches.

Mr Kamlish concluded that by not originally treating Ms Earl’s death as murder the police were “doing the public a great disservice” with the case provoking a “sense of injustice” and “sense of public outrage”.

George Thomas, representing the Chief Constable of Sussex Police, said they remained formally “neutral” over the application for a fresh inquest.

He added in written submissions that Ms Earl’s murder case remains open but with no active lines of inquiry.

He acknowledged that the 1989 investigation was “flawed” because it “appeared to discount the possibility of Jessie had been murdered”.

However he said the chief constable refuted Mr Kamlish’s allegations that police had deliberately not followed lines or inquiry, or that it was strategically misdirected, as “unjustified”.

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