THE FAMILY of a murdered student are the victims of a “substantial miscarriage of justice”, an inquest has heard.

The body of Eastbourne student Jessie Earl was discovered in dense undergrowth near Beachy Head in 1989 - nine years after she disappeared from her bedsit in in Upperton Gardens.

Senior officers at Sussex Police initially told the family her disappearance was not suspicious.

But in 2001, police launched a cold case review that concluded the 22-year-old art student had been murdered.

A second inquest into Ms Earl’s death, which began on Tuesday at Eastbourne Town Hall, heard that she was “probably” tied to a tree and “possibly” sexually assaulted before her suspected murder.

The inquest heard that Sussex Police repeatedly failed to submit relevant documents to the High Court proceedings and to Ms Earl’s family.

Stephen Kamlish QC, representing parents John and Valerie Earl, said: “Sussex Police have failed at every stage until recently to provide the Earls with major documents in the criminal inquiry.”

Mr Kamlish asked retired superintendent Emma Heater, who was the senior investigating officer in the case, why the Earls’ freedom of information (FOI) requests for the report had been refused.

She replied that FOI exemptions would have applied in this case as an “ongoing investigation”.

Mr Kamlish said: “The Earls already had the Silk report and all they wanted was to know that they had the correct report.”

He added that “no methods of investigation” were in the report, adding: “The FOI officer has given a false reason in law for not responding.”

George Thomas, representing the police, said Ms Heater could not answer the question in an official capacity as she was not a member of the FOI team.

East Sussex assistant coroner James Healy-Pratt said: “The family have been victims of a substantial miscarriage of justice. This is an issue.

“I think it still needs to go on the record that the family have had to fight to get certain documents.

“The family have not had due disclosure in a timely fashion.”

Mr Kamlish asked Ms Heater why the police had failed to disclose the 2009 review of Operation Silk to the High Court proceedings.

She said: “We disclosed what we were asked for. There is no cover-up or anything like that.”

Pressed on the issue, she added, “there was nothing meant by it,” and “I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision”.

Mr Kamlish asked why a “problematic” report made by an officer in 1980, which concluded suicide was most likely, was not disclosed for High Court proceedings.

The QC added that this conclusion meant that at the time “police will not be looking for a murderer, and if there is a murderer out there killing young women in the area, that would enable the murderer to continue killing women”.

Ms Heater said that she did not disclose it “inadvertently”, adding: “I agree these documents are important.”

In his closing remarks, Mr Thomas told the court that Sussex Police “have never sought to defend the inadequacy of the original investigations”.

He suggested the coroner rule Ms Earl’s death as unlawful killing but stop short of attributing it to murder.

Mr Kamlish, who asked the coroner to rule Ms Earl’s death as unlawful with the category of murder, said: “I’m not here to suggest a deliberate cover-up by the team.”

But he added that “a lot more support could have been given” to the family.

“The last 30 years of their lives have been consumed by how they could put this right after being told they couldn’t,” he added.