Murder of schoolgirl, 15, solved by hidden clue in text message from paedo uncle

A 15-year-old Essex girl snatched and killed by her sex offender uncle 20 years ago still hasn't been found despite one of the biggest police hunts in UK history.

Danielle Sarah Jones was walking to the bus stop in East Tilbury, Essex on June 18, 2001 when she was grabbed by twisted uncle Stuart James Campbell.

After five days with no sign of her, suspicions immediately moved to Campbell, who had already been given a year-long suspended sentence more than a decade before after forcibly detaining a 14-year-old girl and taking creepy pics.

Why Campbell got off without a jail term for his sick crime in 1989 isn't known – and nor did the public know of his previous sentence at the time of his arrest on June 23.

Builder Campbell also owned a blue van, which Danielle was spotted climbing into before she vanished.

But during his interrogation Campbell refused to answer any police questions, staying silent to more than 50 asks by cops.

Still, police soon surmised he'd had an inappropriate relationship with his teenage niece, with one cop saying it was intimate to the point of being "probably unlawful".

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The Essex van man was lucky to avoid police attention in the days immediately after Danielle's disappearance because they feared she had been kidnapped – and any suspicion might lead him to kill her.

When they found out nothing in June and came to the conclusion she was probably dead, police swooped in to arrest Campbell again on August 12 2001.

Superintendent Peter Coltman told the BBC: "In the context of a belief that Danielle was still alive, and being held against her will, this was an extremely difficult decision."

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It was all but Essex Police's confirmation that Danielle was dead.

In November the CPS decided cops had enough evidence to charge Stuart with the murder, even though there was still no body in sight.

An immense police search involving 900 officers on 1,500 locations failed to locate missing Danielle, who at 5ft 7 was a relatively tall, bleach-blonde girl it would've been hard to miss.

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In October 2002 Campbell's trial finally began after police spent months amassing the evidence they needed to nail him.

Without a body, it was always going to be difficult.

But they had multiple useful clues in the form of Danielle's blood-stained stockings at his house, lip gloss used by Danielle, and a diary which showed he had a terrifying obsession with grooming and photographing teenage girls.

Yet there was one smoking gun.

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Campbell used his niece's phone to text his own number a message to show they were apart at the time of Danielle's heinous murder.

It read: "HI STU THANKZ 4 BEIN SO NICE UR THE BEST UNCLE EVER! TELL MUM I'M SO SORRY LUVYA LOADZ DAN XXX"

Danielle always wrote texts lower-case, so this made cops highly suspicious it had really been sent out by the missing teen.

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Then, the whizz Mobile Switching Centre traced the text to within a single phone mast of Campbell's phone, despite his alibi being that he was at a DIY store in Rayleigh, halfway across the county.

Campbell's defence against the charges of abduction and murder was left incredibly weak and he was found guilty of both in December 2002.

His life imprisonment for murder is running concurrently with a 10-year sentence for abduction.

Almost twenty years to the day after his second and final arrest, Campbell will soon be able to apply for parole for the first time.

The sick 63-year-old can apply for early release this coming November, two decades after he first entered jail.

Campbell still refuses to tell cops – or Danielle's family – where he left her body.

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