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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 13:00 GMT
Town moves on from 'nasty crime'
The scene where Billie-Jo was murdered
Billie-Jo was killed as she painted patio doors at the family home
The brutal murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins nine years ago shocked the coastal town of Hastings in East Sussex.

The high-profile killing brought a glut of negative publicity to a town once known as a genteel seaside resort.

But although it has been repeatedly reminded of the crime during Sion Jenkins' three murder trials and two appeals, the town has moved on.

The Jenkins family moved to Hastings in 1992 when Mr Jenkins became deputy head teacher at William Parker School.

Their semi-detached Victorian home in Lower Park Road overlooked Alexandra Park.

At the time of Billie-Jo's murder an increasing number of hostels had crept into the area and residents had reported problems with vandalism and burglaries.

The killing of the teenager, bludgeoned to death in the back garden, put Hastings on the front pages for all the wrong reasons.

Alexandra Park
Millions of pounds has been spent regenerating Hastings

Peter Lindsay, editor of the Hastings Observer, said: "It certainly had a negative effect on Hastings.

"All the journalists came down from the nationals and for the first few days they were interviewing people and doing the Billie-Jo story.

"But the Billie-Jo story turned into the Hastings story and once again they were featuring on the run-down parts of the town and all the negative parts of Hastings.

"There was an absolute feeling of shock because I found people in Hastings defended their town, they loved their town."

'Unpleasant things happen'

Pam Brown, who was leader of Hastings Borough Council at the time and is now the town's mayor, said: "All the media cottoned on to the fact this was Hastings where nasty things happen.

"It was just unfortunate as we were trying to lift ourselves up.

"We had a lot of unpleasant things happen here but it was wrong to put this nasty crime in that category.

"It got so much publicity at the time it did not do anything good when we were trying to apply for money."

The Jenkins House
The Hastings house where Billie-Jo met her violent death

Since then, millions of pounds has been invested in Hastings and the next door town of Bexhill.

Overall, 400m was to be spent on regenerating the area with 38m going towards a new university centre.

About 150 properties along the seafront and in the town centre have been improved as part of the council's zero tolerance attitude towards derelict houses.

Another 3.5m was spent upgrading Alexandra Park in 2004.

Last October, Bexhill's landmark De La Warr Pavilion reopened after an 8m renovation project costing 8m.

Today, Billie-Jo's foster mother Lois and her natural daughters live in Tasmania and the house where Billie-Jo met her violent death has new owners.

In November last year, Lower Park Road was again full of police and court officials when the jury in the second retrial visited the Jenkins' family home.

But Mr Lindsay said the case no longer stirs emotions as it once did.

"Our newspaper sales are a good indication - but the last trial didn't actually affect them at all," he said.

Now, after the latest jury failed to reach a verdict the prosecution has said it will not seek a further retrial.

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