Dec 2002

Uncle jailed for Danielle murder

A “violent” and “predatory” builder with a “perverted interest” in young teenage girls was tonight beginning a life sentence for the kidnap and murder of his 15-year-old niece.

Stuart Campbell, 44, of Grays, Essex, was convicted of abducting and killing Danielle Jones by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court after an 11-week trial.

Danielle vanished while walking to catch a school bus near her home in East Tilbury, Essex, in June 2001.

Campbell, a father of two whose hobbies include body-building and karate, denied any involvement in her disappearance.


Campbell pictured above at time of court sentencing

After the jury returned its verdict, Danielle’s father Tony Jones said: “We are just hoping that now there has been a verdict he might come forward and say, ‘Yes, I would like to tell you where Danielle is’.”

Asked how they felt towards Campbell, Danielle’s mother Linda Jones said: “I don’t think there are any words to try and describe that.”

Police found no trace of the youngster despite a massive search and investigation involving nearly 1,000 staff.

Officers revealed today that Campbell had a criminal record stretching back more than 30 years.

He had been jailed for robbery and 12 years ago was given a suspended sentence for holding a 14-year-old girl at his home without authority and photographing her in karate clothes and swimwear.

Judge Mr Justice McKinnon handed down a life sentence for murder and a concurrent 10-year sentence for kidnap.

“You have done a truly terrible thing which has caused widespread horror and disbelief,” the judge told Campbell. “I can confidently say there is not a shred of mitigation in this case.” He added: “It seems to me you merit the description ‘dangerous’.”

The judge said Campbell had been “obsessed” with his niece and was unable to control his urges for teenage girls.

“Your particular perverted interests focus on schoolgirls in the 14-15 age bracket,” added the judge. You are quite unable to control your impulses in this area.

“You have been a blatant, deceitful and thoroughly dishonest smooth operator over many years – oblivious of your effect on others by creeping into the affections of underage girls.”

Danielle’s parents, both 42, clung to each other in the public gallery as the verdicts were announced.

They watched as Campbell, who is married to Tony’s sister Debbie, calmly picked up a file before walking out of the dock without showing any emotion.

A senior detective said Campbell was a “cold, callous individual” who had been “like a predator waiting for Danielle to reach an age of interest to him”.

Mr and Mrs Jones had been concerned about the amount of attention Campbell showed their daughter in the last nine months of her life.

But they said they were unaware of Campbell’s disturbing past and were “completely shocked” to learn of his lengthy criminal record.

“We were not aware because we would not be here if we were,” said a distraught Mrs Jones after the hearing. “We were completely shocked when we heard of his record.”

After the trial police revealed that Campbell’s first conviction had been in 1970 and six years later he had been given a four-year jail sentence for robbing a 16-year-old girl in the street.

They traced several women who said Campbell had approached them in the street when they were teenagers pretending to be a professional photographer.

He persuaded many to return to his home and photographed them in various states of undress. It also emerged that Campbell, who has been married twice, began relationships with both his wives when they were in their mid-teens.

Detectives felt that although they had not found Danielle’s body they had a mass of compelling evidence to show that Campbell had abducted and murdered the youngster.

Danielle, a pupil at St Clere’s School, Stanford-le-Hope, was seen talking to a man in a blue transit van shortly after leaving her house – Campbell owned an identical van.

Prosecutors told the jury of seven women and five men that Campbell had developed an “irresistible sexual attraction” for his niece.

They said he regularly picked her up from the school bus stop in his van; sent her “an inordinate amount of text messages” and kept a diary chronicling his contact with her.

Police felt that his relationship with Danielle was inappropriate and probably sexual and unlawful.

Campbell claimed to be in another part of Essex on the morning Danielle disappeared but expert analysis of his mobile phone showed that could not be true.

Investigations also revealed that his phone and Danielle’s phone were together near his home for around 30 hours after she vanished.

In a bag in Campbell’s loft police found female underwear including a pair of cling-top women’s stockings.

The stockings were stained with blood which contained a mixture of Campbell’s and Danielle’s DNA.

Mr Justice McKinnon told Campbell: “What precisely happened may never be known. Now you are the only one that knows what actually happened and thus far you have kept your cards very close to your chest.

“You clearly had a close relationship with the deceased, as she obviously is. How close only you now know. You were regularly in touch with her until June 4, 2001. You were obsessed by her. That is obvious.

“On Monday 18 June, 2001, for reasons known only to you, you decided to kidnap her. You desperately wanted to photograph her…

“Having kidnapped her probably on the pretext of taking her to school you took her to your home. There you murdered her. Then you somehow disposed of her body without trace.”