Died 3rd December 2013
Jayden Parkinson (17) was found dead on 18th December 2013 in a disturbed established grave at All Saints’ churchyard in Didcot, Oxfordshire. She is believed to have died on 3rd December 2013. A post-mortem examination revealed she died from pressure to the neck.
Her former boyfriend Ben Blakeley (22) is alleged to have murdered her and buried her in his uncle’s grave when he found out she was pregnant. Forensic excavations recovered Ms Parkinson’s body from the grave. Blakeley has admitted manslaughter and perverting the course of justice, but denies murder. However, the prosecution has refused to accept his plea.
Blakeley is now on trial alongside a 17-year-old boy, who pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, but denied a charge of preventing a lawful burial.
Oxford Crown Court heard that Ms Parkinson died as a result of pressure to the neck. However, she also had “relatively widespread” areas of bruising to her face and scalp which was indicative of being caused by a fist or foot. The pathologist could not determine whether she was pregnant when she died.
The prosecution allege that Blakeley regularly beat Ms Parkinson and controlled her life, threatening to put compromising pictures and videos of her online. He was accused of being obsessive and controlling. The court heard he was so controlling he decided what she could eat
Richard Latham QC, prosecuting, told the jury of five men and seven women that Ms Parkinson had been living at the One Foot Forward hostel in Oxford when she disappeared. She was captured on CCTV leaving the hostel at 3.31pm on 3rd December. She was later caught on CCTV at Oxford railway station with Blakeley and again at Didcot railway station. Hostel staff reported her missing later that evening.
Mr Latham said: “The prosecution case is that Jayden was killed by Ben Blakeley that same evening in open countryside south of Didcot”. He added “We cannot be precise about location for this simple reason – unlike most killings the body was moved from where the offence occurred. There is only one person alive who knows the truth and we would invite you to be very sceptical about what he says or has said.”
Mr Latham said “Ben Blakeley and Jayden had been in a relationship for some time before her death”. He added: “On any view it was difficult. We allege he was controlling, to an obsessive and excessive degree. He was violent and abusive to her and controlling and hitting her. The relationship seems to have come to an end around November 23 last year – so very shortly before her death.”
The jury heard that Blakeley had made 13 videos of Jayden and taken 30 pictures of her naked and she told staff at the hostel that he was threatening to put them on Facebook.
Mr Latham said she was “reporting real difficulties with violence and problems with the videos he had taken of her while they were having sex, of videos he had taken of her in sexual poses. . He was threatening to put those images on Facebook. She also reported that she had been taken to a field by Blakeley in a car and they had slept there. He had taken her shoes and coat and suggested she was a slave for talking to other people. He was so controlling that he told her what to eat.”
A neighbour of Blakeley in Reading recalled seeing Ms with a black eye, describing her as a “quiet girl” who would not say “boo to a goose”.
Mr Latham said “Another witness describes seeing bruising to her neck. She also told someone at the hostel that Blakeley had kicked her in the head. He ordered her not to leave her room even to eat or use the toilet … when she dumped him he called her a whore and said he hoped she killed herself”.
Mr Latham described to the court the controlling behaviour Blakeley allegedly exerted over his victim. He said that when Ms Parkinson first moved to the hostel she would remain in her room on his orders. He said “Jayden explained to a member of staff that she had a boyfriend and she was not coming out of her room because he had told her not to. She was not even to come out of her room for food and was eating crisps and biscuits. She was not allowed to speak to anyone and as a result she had lost all her friends. She was not allowed to shower and had to go to Blakeley’s grandmother’s house in Didcot. She was not allowed to use the toilet and had to use a bottle.” Mr Latham added: “He told her that he knew other people that lived at the hostel and they would report any transgressions to him.”
The court also heard that Blakeley told Ms Parkinson he had strangled a previous girlfriend and he had also thrown away the teenager’s keys and mobile phone.
Mr Latham said: “He made her feel it was her fault that he needed to hit her. You may think this is a classic sign of a bullying and abusive relationship – somehow making the victim feel it is their fault.”
Hannah Ryan, a support worker at One Foot Forward hostel described Ms Parkinson as “quite timid”. She said Blakeley had told her that she could not leave her room even to shower or use the bathroom. Ms Ryan said: “She said he had beaten her up in the past and strangled her in the past. She was left with no friends at all. She said Ben was the cause.” Ms Ryan said she saw her on 24th November after she had split up with Blakeley and said: “She was just really happy.”
After splitting up with Blakeley, Ms Parkinson reported to police the allegations about the videos on 27th November. She told police that Blakeley had asked if they could get back together but she refused because she had ‘had enough of his possessive, controlling and abusive behaviour”. She told officers: “He became angry and called me a whore and he then said the videos and photographs would end up on BlackBerry Messenger and Facebook. He told me that ‘when you see them I hope you kill yourself by jumping off a bridge’. I am terrified he will send them everywhere, which will ruin my life, and I want them deleted.”
The court was told that hostel staff had asked her to take a pregnancy test on 2nd December, which proved positive. She indicated that the father was Blakeley.
As he had confiscated her mobile phone, Jayden asked to use the phone in the hotel’s office in front of staff to ring Blakeley, a call which lasted 45 minutes.
Mr Latham said “He was angry and abusive and saying it was someone else’s and not him that was the father.” The jury heard that on the day of Ms Parkinson’s death she took another pregnancy test which also proved positive and again rang Blakeley.
Mr Latham said Ms Parkinson told hostel staff that she wanted to meet up with Blakeley to persuade him that he was the father even though they questioned the advisability of doing so. She subsequently left to meet him.
Later that day, police, who were investigating the complaint about the video and photographs, arrested Blakeley on suspicion of possessing indecent images.
Mr Latham said he denied the allegations and spoke as if she was still alive.
Jurors were told that a taxi driver had positively identified picking up Blakeley with a large suitcase on 9th December. “He said he wanted to pick up a suitcase because his girlfriend had kicked him out and he had intended to walk to Didcot but the suitcase was too heavy and he had left it down a track,” he said. The taxi driver drove Blakeley down the dark track to the suitcase. Mr Latha, said “The taxi driver describes the case as being more of a trunk than a case. It was so heavy that when the defendant tried lifting it into the boot of the taxi the taxi driver got out to help because he was concerned it was going to damage the boot of the taxi as he tried to lift it in.” Blakeley asked to be taken to All Saint’s Church in Didcot, arriving at 2.15am.
Mr Latham said phone records could put Blakeley and his co-defendant at the church between 2.15am and 4.45am. He said “It is the prosecution’s case that between those two times these two defendants were burying the body of Jayden Parkinson in a grave.” He told the jury that at 5.25am Blakeley and the other accused were caught on CCTV at Didcot railway station waiting for a train, where they separated. At 5.58am Blakeley arrived at Reading station and CCTV footage showed his clothing stained with mud. The suitcase used to transport Ms Parkinson was later found.
The court heard that a care worker reported that Blakeley had been a resident at a home when he was aged 13 or 14. Mr Latham said she remembered he had said “that if he ever had to get rid of a body he would put it in a family member’s grave. Rather a strange thing for a 13 or 14-year-old to say. She asked him why he would do that and the answer he gave was that the bones would get mixed up and cause confusion. The DNA would rub off and no one would bother looking in a grave.”
On 7th December Blakeley was spoken to again and told officers he had last spoken to Jayden two days previously. He tried contacting her at her hostel. Mr Latham said
“She had been dead for days and he knew she had been dead for days because he admits he killed her.” He warned “ You must approach this case with the knowledge that he is a proven and constant liar.”
On 11th December Blakeley was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Jayden Parkinson. On 12th December he was arrested on suspicion of murder and replied ‘no comment’ to all questions.
The court heard that Blakeley told a prison chaplain that he “deserved the sentence for what he had done”. He also told a prison governor that he had “done everything” to save Jayden and told a prison health worker that he “didn’t mean to kill her”.
Mr Latham said “He needed that health care assistant to know that he hadn’t just chucked her in the hole he had dug, but while he was saying this he was smiling. He said, ‘If I could take it back I would, but now I have told you that can I have a television?’”.
The court heard Blakeley has a history of abusing young girls. The jury heard Blakeley began a relationship with 16-year-old Kirsty Penford in April 2007. Richard Latham said: “Her pregnancy made him upset. He accused her of being unfaithful. When she was seven months pregnant he threw her down the stairs in the flat. He threatened to stab her in the stomach to kill the baby.”
Ms Penford gave birth in 2008. The jury heard the next day Blakeley “lost control” and police had to be called when he marched into the ward and began to wheel the cot away with the baby inside. Mr Latham added: “The relationship was punctuated by outbursts of rage. He was violent to her. He only allowed her to wear makeup to disguise bruises on her face.”
He said Blakeley moved on to a new relationship in 2009 with Katie Gale but by 2011 he had turned violent. Mr Latham said “He started hitting her, he bit her face. Significantly he tried to strangle her.” That relationship ended in October 2012 and, according to Mr Latham, he then began seeing another woman, Sarah Rees, to whom he was also violent.
Note: This report was drawn from the BBC and Daily Mail.