The gruesome find in a north Suffolk field 30 years ago today which sparked an unsolved murder
PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:08 18 February 2019
It is 30 years since a rabbit hunter discovered the body of murdered mum Jeanette Kempton in a north Suffolk field. We take him back to the spot for the first time for our Unfinished podcast.
Thirty years is a long time.
But the memories of what Kevin and his friend Jordan Spendlove discovered on the edge of a field off the A12 near Wangford on the afternoon on Saturday, February 18, 1989, will never fade.
They had been out hunting rabbits on the estate and were in high spirits after a few good catches.
It was overcast with a biting wind ripping through the fields – just as it is when we return.
“This could have been the day”, Kevin, 57, chuckles. “Who would want to be out in this?”
The field, opposite Henham Quarry, about half a mile off the A12, is completely unremarkable.
But for rows of bare trees silhouetted against the grey sky, it is featureless.
The grazing cows in the distance and the minefield of rabbit holes are the only signs of life.
While today the estate is surrounded by a waist-high barbed wire fence, in 1989 it was completely open.
And as the friends walked along the far edge of the field with their dogs and continued their hunt into the afternoon Kevin noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
“We were following the dogs up the ditch and as I walked past I thought I saw a shop mannequin,” he says.
But tragically this was not a case of rural fly-tipping.
Kevin and Jordan had stumbled across the partially-clothed and decomposed body of a murdered woman – a woman who had been dumped in the field for so long that rodents had eaten parts of her body.
Initially the builder from Kessingland could not believe what he was seeing.
“I touched her with the end of my gun to see if it was fleshy and it was”, he recalls.
“It was just a body laying in the bottom of a ditch with bits of grass round her.
“Her top was open and there was a scratch across her chest. Her calves had been eaten away and the meat off her fingers and face too. But her eyeballs were still there.”
It was the image of the eyes which has stuck with Kevin the most.
A few weeks after the discovery of the body of Jeanette Kempton he spotted a police poster appealing for information about her murder and once again found himself staring into the same pair of eyes.
Jeanette, known to her friends as Jean or Blonde Jean, was a 31-year-old mother-of-two from Brixton, south London.
She was last seen alive at her local pub, The Loughborough Hotel, 16 days before the rabbit hunters found her.
How her body came to be in a ditch 120 miles from her home in a county she had never visited is still a mystery – as is who killed her.
Ever since Kevin and Jordan alerted a local police officer to what they had found, the case has proven unsolvable for Suffolk’s detectives.
But the case is being explored again in podcast called Unfinished produced by this newspaper.
You can listen to episode one on the link in this article.
What we do know is she had been beaten around the back of the head up to 48 hours before and then strangled to death.
The ditch where Jeanette’s body was dumped has since been filled in, replaced by a low bramble bush stretching for around 30 metres.
Kevin has never returned to the spot until now. He took part in a reconstruction which was broadcast in May but that was filmed at a more camera-friendly ditch further up the road.
And as he stands in the same place as thirty years before, he still wonders why this was the chosen spot for Jeanette’s killer.
“I wouldn’t have said there was much effort to try and cover her up at all. A rushed job – but you wouldn’t want to be hanging about would you?”
“It seems a strange place, they could have been anywhere.
“If you were driving along you would see a lane but from here to London there must be millions of lanes – why here?”
•Who was Jeanette Kempton?
When Jeanette Kempton failed to return to her home, in Brixton’s Myatt’s Fields Estate, on February 2, 1989, no alarms were raised.
The 31-year-old mother-of-two shared the home with her two sons and ex-husband Paul Kempton and was known to disappear for days at a time on drinking binges.
Jeanette and Paul had first met 17 years before in 1972, when she was 15. They fell in love and married the next year.
However in the following years Jeanette began suffering from depression and drank heavily.
Cracks began to appear in the marriage and they divorced in 1980 but in 1985 Paul returned to the family home to live with Jeanette and their two sons.
At the time of her disappearance Jeanette was in a relationship with a married man named Barry Coleman.
He was the last person to see her alive after an evening of drinking with her at a nearby pub.
•You can listen to the Unfinished podcast by searching for Unfinished in iTunes or in your usual podcast provider. Further episodes about this case will be added this month.
•Anyone with information should contact Suffolk Police on 101.
•Follow the latest from our investigations unit on Facebook
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