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 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 11:31 GMT
Proving murder without a body
Police divers in boat
Police divers searched lakes and waterways

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Danielle Jones faced a major problem.

They were sure she had been murdered, and equally convinced that her uncle Stuart Campbell was the killer.

But where was the body?

They were anxious to find the teenager's remains so that her parents could hold a funeral.

The only conclusion was that Stuart Campbell killed her

Chris McCann, Crown Prosecution Service

But they also knew that without a body, it would be harder to secure a conviction.

And from the start it was clear Campbell was determined to say nothing. He knew it was his best chance of avoiding prison.

Search teams

Essex Police could hardly have done more. The lengthy investigation involved more than 900 officers and support staff.

Every lead was followed up. In all, 1,500 different sites were searched.

Police digging in mounds of earth
Police searched 1,500 sites for Danielle

In addition to a police helicopter, the search involved teams of divers, dog units, and the Welsh Mountain Rescue Service.

But in the end they found nothing, and reluctantly the search was called off.

They were then faced with the prospect of going to trial without the key evidence provided by physical remains.

In a case without a body, the first question a jury has to consider is whether there has actually been a murder.

A defendant will play on that uncertainty, arguing that there must be another explanation. The missing person has run away, or perhaps suffered a fatal accident.

Campbell did just that when interviewed by detectives. He tried to suggest that Danielle was in trouble at home.

DNA evidence

To secure a conviction, the Crown needed to convince the jury at Chelmsford Crown Court that murder was the only possible explanation - and that Campbell must have been the killer.

Usually it is the body that provides the most compelling evidence linking killer and victim.

Van taken away by police
Stuart Campbell's home and van were searched

Without it, the police knew the forensic investigation would have to focus on the home of the uncle.

"Danielle had not been found, and Campbell would not assist with the investigation," recalls Detective Superintendent Peter Coltman.

"The case law on such a position was clear and set a high threshold of proof."

Once the police had put together their case, the papers landed on the desk of Chris McCann at the Crown Prosecution Service.

'Vulnerable girl'

It was his decision to proceed against Stuart Campbell, despite the fact that there was no body.

Danielle Jones
Abducted and murdered, but where was the body?
"I saw a case that was compelling," he told the BBC.

"Danielle was a young, vulnerable girl who would not have gone off on her own. The reason she did not contact her parents was that she was dead.

"The only conclusion you could come to was that Stuart Campbell killed her."

When detectives searched Campell's home they found a pair of blood-stained stockings. Traces of DNA matched Danielle and her uncle.

There was also evidence of Campbell's unhealthy interest in teenage girls. And a number of women contacted the police to say that he had approached them when they were teenagers, by posing as a photographer.

Phone 'fingerprints'

Equally important to the Crown's case were the mobile phone records that revealed Campbell's alibi to be a lie.

He had told police that at the time of Danielle's disappearance, he was at a DIY store...a half hour's drive away.

Stuart Campbell
The Crown's case exposed Stuart Campbell's lies

Signals from mobile phone masts told a different story.

Campbell claimed he had received a text message from Danielle, but the evidence suggested that he had used Danielle's phone to send the message to his own phone.

"Mobile phones leave fingerprints in the air," explained Chris McCann.

"The phones were side by side, probably in the right and left hand at the same time, and the evidence tells us they were the hands of Stuart Campbell."

This damning evidence undermined Campbell's defence, and persuaded the jury that he had killed his niece.

But while the prosecution ended in success for Essex Police, detectives feel their job is not finished.

They will now try to persuade Stuart Campbell to acknowledge his guilt, and tell them where to find Danielle.

Key stories


The trial
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