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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August 2004, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Bus journey ended in tragedy
by Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

Alicia Eborne
Alicia Eborne: "Bubbly" girl whose life was cut tragically short
It should have been a typical day for 18-year-old student Alicia Eborne.

In the morning she caught a 59 bus from Cornwood, near her home in the tiny Dartmoor hamlet of Corntown, to go into Plymouth for her social care course.

After a stint in a part-time shop job she was due to meet her boyfriend Jon Austen, 25, for a night out.

But she never arrived in Plymouth and her body was found nine days later hidden in woods near Dartmoor.

From the start detectives directed their attentions to the bus route she took regularly between Cornwood and Plymouth to get to Plymouth College of Further Education.

Alicia home
Alicia left her home in the morning to attend a course in Plymouth
Schoolchildren had boarded the bus at two villages further along the route, and when they got off Alicia was the sole remaining passenger.

Driver Lee Holbrook, 39, from Plymouth had made advances to Alicia before, but had been rejected.

This time, when he should then have turned south along his scheduled route, he instead turned off on to a country road near Buckland Monachorum, six miles from Plymouth.

Plymouth Crown Court heard that Holbrook later admitted to police that having stopped the bus he walked back through the vehicle, spoke to Alicia and "asked her if she wanted a shag".

Lee Holbrook
Lee Holbrook had made previous advances to Alicia
"She replied 'No, I am going to tell the police'."

Having strangled Alicia, Holbrook then drove the bus to a point about three quarters of a mile away where he dumped her body.

He continued back to Bretonside bus station in Plymouth where he was seen with scratches and blood on the left side of his face.

Holbrook then drove another bus until 1600 and once off duty picked up a Land Rover in which he had come to work and drove along the 59 route again.

He collected Alicia's body from where he had dumped it in the morning, drove to Denham Woods near Buckland Monachorum, rolled her body down a steep bank and covered her with leaves.

Holbrook drove home to Plymouth, keeping Alicia's handbag under the seat of the Land Rover for a time before dumping it.

On Thursday 13 November father-of-two Holbrook was arrested, initially only on suspicion of abducting the student.

The next day Alicia's parents Joan and Anthony, Jehovah's Witnesses who run an office supply business in Plymouth, made an emotional plea for Alicia, who had two older brothers, to come home.

But the family's worst fears were realised on 16 November when police announced they had launched a murder inquiry after Holbrook confessed to killing Alicia.

Later that day the teenager's body was found hidden in thick woods up a steep bank close to the River Tavy.

'Enormous compassion'

Holbrook had been brought up in the village six miles from Plymouth, and often returned there in his Land Rover to see a friend who he met at the village pub.

Denham Woods
Alicia's body was found 15 miles from her home
It was a beauty spot he had visited many times but it was so remote that he had to take police back to it before they were able to recover Alicia's body.

After learning their daughter was dead, Alicia's parents spoke of their devastation.

In a statement, they said: "The family would like to express heartfelt appreciation for the enormous compassion, genuine support, cards and flowers we have received.

"Our lives have been totally devastated by the tragic loss of our dearest darling Alicia.

"We would like to offer a deep thank you to all those, especially the police, who worked tirelessly to bring Alicia safely back to us, but sadly this was not possible."

She was a girl that everyone wanted to know. She was brilliant
Best friend Susie Jonas

Holbrook was charged with Alicia's murder on the night of November 16 and made a first appearance before Torbay Magistrates' Court the next day.

When later asked to enter a plea, he denied murdering the college student and had been due to face a four-day trial starting on Monday. He was given a life sentence after admitting murder.

Alicia's best friend Suzy Jonas, who raised the alarm, said: "She was a fantastic, extrovert bubbly girl.

"She was a girl that everyone wanted to know. She was brilliant.

"But time is a great healer and when I think of her know, I laugh and smile at the good times that we had."

Jayne Williams, manageress of the patisserie restaurant where Alicia worked, said: "She was only 18 and she had everything going for her. We will always remember her in our hearts."

Plymouth College of Further Education principal David Percival said: "Alicia was a young, popular and hard working student who should have had her whole life ahead of her."

Funeral for murdered teenager
10 Dec 03 |  Devon
Alicia's family speak of loss
22 Nov 03 |  Devon

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