Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Mystery remains over musician's murder

By John Henry
BBC News, North Yorkshire

Jenny Nicholl
Jenny's body has never been found despite extensive searches
A jealous middle-aged married father of two has been convicted of killing his teenage former lover Jenny Nicholl - even though no body has been found or witnesses to her death traced.

In the sedate market town of Richmond in rural North Yorkshire the report of a missing woman in 2005 sparked a huge search of woods, moors, caves and scrubland.

Police teams were joined by soldiers from the nearby Catterick Garrison during that summer searching over 150 different areas.

But despite the endless searches Jenny's ex-lover David Hodgson - who had become incensed about her growing relationship with his older brother - held the key to her death.

Jenny Nicholl was a devotee of live music and played a guitar with a local band, No Fouling. She was a bright girl and well-known in the town's pubs and music venues.

Text messages

So what, detectives wanted to know, would cause this woman to abandon her car at the Holly Hill pub car park on the outskirts of the town and effectively disappear from everything, and everyone, she knew so well?

In an effort to trace Jenny, officers made inquires at music events as far afield as the Lake District and Scotland.

Hundreds of posters were handed out urging anyone who had seen her to contact the police.

I cannot bear the thought of her being alone in the cold wet ground in some makeshift grave
Ann Nicholl

In a bizarre twist, text messages from her mobile phone were sent to Jenny's friends and family claiming she was safe and well.

But the phone was immediately switched off after the messages were sent from both the Carlisle area and the Scottish borders region. It has never been used since or found.

As the inquiry deepened and detectives looked at myriad possibilities to account for her disappearance, her father's laptop computer was scanned for signs of any e-mail or contacts she may have made - anything which would offer an insight into her world and perhaps state of mind.

But that line of inquiry only added even further torment to her family when experts uncovered thousands of pornographic images of children downloaded on her father's machine.

He was given a community rehabilitation order after admitting a number of specimen charges at Teesside Crown Court in May 2006.

Although officers said the images were not connected to their inquiry into Jenny's disappearance, the family's pain was publicly compounded.

Six months into the investigation officers had connected Hodgson with Jenny's disappearance and also brought in his older brother Robert for questioning

Part of Sandbeck Plantation where the items were found
Jenny's teddy bear was found at the Sandbeck Plantation
Hodgson, detectives soon realised, could not adequately account for hundreds of miles on the clock of a car he hired shortly after Jenny disappeared.

And it emerged he had been having a sexual relationship with the teenager in woodland hides the Hodgson brothers had built in the area.

As the painstaking work of fingertip searches in rural areas continued, police got a breakthrough with the discovery of a teddy bear and portable stereo which belonged to Jenny in the Sandbeck Plantation - a wooded copse off Longwood Bank just south of the town.

It was the first piece of real evidence linking Jenny to the area after she was last seen leaving home.

With the months slipping by, her mother Ann Nicholl, pleaded with anyone to let the family know where her body was.

She said: "I cannot bear the thought of her being alone in the cold wet ground in some makeshift grave".

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SEE ALSO
Man guilty of teenager's murder
19 Feb 08 |  North Yorkshire

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