THE detective who led the investigation into the murder of schoolgirl Billie-Jo Jenkins has revealed his regret that the case was never solved.
The 13-year-old was bludgeoned to death with an 18inch tent peg in her back garden 24 years ago – but her attacker has never been found.
Foster dad Siôn Jenkins, now 63, spent six years in jail before his life sentence was quashed on appeal.
But retired officer Jeremy Paine is desperate to see justice for the teenager and her family, The Mirror reports.
Speaking as part of a one-off documentary looking into the day she was killed, he details the evidence from the scene in Hastings, East Sussex, in 1997, so viewers can "make up their own minds" what happened.
He adds: "This was a tragic and brutal act of violence. Billie-Jo had her whole life in front of her."
Billie-Jo was nine when her biological father was sent to prison and she was placed in foster care with Siôn and Lois Jenkins, who already had daughters of their own.
She spent five years with the family and was described as a "fun-loving" child who had dreams of becoming an actor.
But on February 15, 1997, Billie-Jo was found dead in the back garden of the family home, battered over the head with an iron tent peg while painting patio doors.
She was reportedly alone at the time, before Siôn discovered her lying in a pool of her own blood.
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He later became the prime suspect and was arrested nine days later before being sentenced to life for her murder.
Jenkins was formally acquitted in 2006 following two inconclusive retrials – but later had a compensation claim rejected because his innocence could not be proved.
Sussex Police are now conducting a forensic review of the cold case for the first time in 15 years – and officers reckon DNA and blood tests could finally solve it.
The initial probe hinged on 148 "invisible" blood spots found on the clothing of ex-deputy head Jenkins.
Prosecutors claimed these were consistent with "impact spatter", but Jenkins’ defence team argued they came from a fine spray on Billie-Jo’s breath after he discovered her dying.
The spots – and whether they contained bone fragments – will form part of the review.
Scientists are also conducting DNA tests from tapings in the hope of matching it with potential suspects.
Police stress there is no new information and detectives are not reinvestigating.
But the force said: "We are carrying out a forensic review of material to establish whether or not scientific advances can provide new lines of inquiry."
Following Jenkins' acquittal, his ex-wife Lois alleged he had been violent to her and their four daughters.
Jenkins, who remarried, has repeatedly demanded police reinvestigate the murder and accused them of lacking the courage to face mistakes.
He has also repeatedly claimed he fears his foster daughter was killed by a "prowler".
His Justice for Sion Jenkins website says: "Billie-Jo’s story can’t have a happy ending but it should have a truthful one."
- One-off documentary Who Killed Billie-Jo? airs tonight, February 10, at 9pm on Channel 5.
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