The unsolved murder of a student 42 years ago could finally be deciphered – as it has been revealed that her family DNA sample will be cross-checked with serial killer ‘trophies’ and all crime scenes in the UK United.
Jessie Earl was 22 in 1980 when she disappeared near Beachy Head, East Sussex, leaving her parents John and Val to endure four decades of grief and uncertainty.
They believe serial killer Peter Tobin – who had a treasure trove of jewelry for unknown women in his home – may be responsible.
The 75-year-old was living near Brighton when Jessie went missing and she had told her mum of meeting a middle-aged Scottish man at Beachy Head.
When her body was found nine years after her disappearance, she was naked and her wrists bound with her own bra.
An autopsy revealed that the cause of his death was undetermined and an inquest held four months later recorded an open verdict.
But a cold case review by Sussex Police in 2000 meant his disappearance began to be scrutinized as a potential murder.
The High Court ordered a new inquiry after the initial investigation by Sussex Police in 1989 was found to be insufficient.
A pre-inquest hearing was told that DNA had already been taken from his parents and that police forensic experts are searching databases for a match to any crime scene.
Sussex Police have also been asked to carry out a thorough search of their records and provide an audit trail of evidence collected before the first investigation.
Jessie Earl, 22, disappeared near Beachy Head, East Sussex, in 1980 without a trace
Jessie’s parents John and Val believe serial killer Peter Tobin may be responsible for the murder
Tobin was living near Brighton when Jessie went missing and she had described meeting a middle-aged Scottish man at Beachy Head to her mother.
The bra used to bind Jessie Earl’s hands was destroyed following the first investigation in 1989, police said.
The Earl family’s legal team hopes their DNA can match a trophy taken from another victim of the same killer.
Jessie’s case was featured on the second season of the Netflix series “The Investigator,” directed by former officer and investigative journalist Mark William-Thomas,
Chris Williams, representing the family, said: “Some serial killers keep trophies and that’s to see if any of their DNA shows up on other trophies.”
“It would be helpful if he could identify the identity of a potential killer in this case.”
The family requested a full audit trail of all exhibits recovered in 1989.
“Sussex Police said they had all been cleared.
“With this in mind, we are requesting an audit trail to see, in particular, if we can recover Jessie’s bra.
There is no Jessie’s DNA available, so her parents’ DNA has been taken and will be used in tests.
Jewelery trove for unknown women detectives at Peter Tobin’s home after his arrest
The horrific crimes of serial killer Peter Tobin
Tobin is currently serving three life sentences for the murders of Angelika Kluk, Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol.
In 2008, the 75-year-old was caged for the murder of 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton after she disappeared at Bathgate in 1991.
Her body was found alongside that of Dinah McNicol, 18, from Tillingham in Essex, who also disappeared in 1991.
In 2017 the two bodies were discovered in the garden of a house in Margate, Kent, where Tobin moved from Bathgate.
Tobin also raped and murdered Polish student Angelika Kluk, 23, whose body was found under the floorboards of a church in Anderston, Glasgow.
“If the killer used this bra, it is likely to produce killer DNA. DNA on the bra other than Jessie’s and would lead to suspicion that someone was responsible for her death.
“Police databases could identify the person who touched that bra.”
Joanne Kane, for Sussex Police, said: ‘A new family DNA profile has already been established.
“It’s been loaded into the missing persons database and the medical examiner is matching samples against all crime scene data.”
The family are willing to have his body exhumed so that a sample can be taken from his bone marrow if DNA research finds possible matches.
Jessie’s parents, Valerie and John, now both 90, won the right to a second inquest in December 2021 after they described the initial police investigation as woefully inadequate.
They appeared by video from their home in south-east London at the start of a new investigation in Eastbourne.
Mr Healy-Pratt said he agreed the young woman could have been unlawfully killed.
“The main point of evidence put forward by the family is unlawful killing.
“It’s something that has considerable strength behind it and something I’m okay with in terms of scope.”
Tobin is serving a life sentence in Edinburgh for the murders of three other women.
Speaking after the hearing, Jessie’s brother James Earl, 66, said the family were aware of the Tobin connection.
“Evidence could find this way although there are other possibilities.
“The police seem quite sure it’s not him.
“I keep an open mind.
“Somehow I hope it’s not him because the way he dispatched his victims was quite unpleasant.
“I wouldn’t want my parents to have to go through that.”
Mr Earl said the family wanted the original inquest’s verdict overturned.
“The open verdict is unfair to my sister.
“It’s unfair to my sister, it hasn’t been recorded as an unlawful killing.
“That’s clearly what it was and I think they’re going to come to the right conclusion now, even if it’s 33 years later.
That’s all my parents really want. If there’s an exhumation, there’s a good side to that in that we’ll know exactly what happened, but there’s a bad side to that that could cause my parents more suffering.
“What they feel most is that it was recorded in a way that cast doubt on Jessie’s character,” he said.
Deputy Coroner James Healy-Pratt told the family they had waited long enough for the second inquest into Jessie’s death.
“I recognize the extraordinarily long legal and emotional journey your family has had to endure.
“I intend to complete this investigation within 60 days.
“They waited over 30 years to quash the original investigation.
“That’s why I’m trying to speed things up,” he said.
The full survey is expected to take place in May.