I found my daughter Julie Hogg stuffed behind a bath panel as her son, 3, cried – my first words to him were devastating | The Sun

WHEN single mum Julie Hogg went missing from her home in Billingham, in 1989, police were baffled and, despite 29 officers searching the house, they found no clue to her whereabouts.

But three months after the 22-year-old vanished, distraught mum Ann Ming discovered her decomposing and mutilated body behind a bath panel. Julie had been strangled to death.

The devastating find was the start of a long and bitter legal fight, after Julie's former partner, Billy Dunlop, was twice tried for her murder and found not guilty, in 1991.

Despite later confessing to her killing, and bragging he'd got away with the "perfect murder", the ancient double jeopardy law meant he could not be tried again.

Following a 15-year battle, Ann made history when she successfully got the law changed in 2005. And after taking on the British legal system, she finally put her daughter’s killer behind bars.

Dunlop, now 59, was jailed for life in 2006, becoming the first killer to be convicted under the new legislation.



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Speaking exclusively to the Sun about the remarkable case, ahead of a new Channel 5 documentary, The Incident Room, Ann, now 77, says: “When you get the conviction, the first 24 hours you’re euphoric.

"It doesn’t actually make a difference because your loved one isn’t coming back but you have that closure for the crime.”

Heartbreaking conversations

Julie's three-year-old son Kevin had been staying with Ann at the time of pizza delivery worker Julie’s disappearance on November 16, 1989.

After police returned the keys to the house, following extensive searches, it was Ann who would make the grim discovery of her daughter's remains.

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Dunlop boasted of killing Julie in prison despite avoiding conviction twiceCredit: North News and Pictures
He murdered the 22-year-old at her home in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees

Ann recalls: “She was there for three months in that house and 29 police officers were in and out of that house so it's strange that they never found her."

But she insists: “I’m glad I found her. When she was missing, the not knowing was awful. If I’d not found her, it would have been worse.”

Ann also recalls how Kevin, now 37, was with her in the flat when she found Julie.

She says: “I had to tell his dad to take him downstairs.

“He would cry all the time for his mam. We didn’t tell him the truth in the beginning. We told her she slipped in the bath and hit her head. I thought it was the right thing to do. You do what’s best at the time.”

In 1991, Julie ex-boyfriend, labourer Dunlop was tried twice at Newcastle Crown Court for killing her but on both occasions the jury failed to reach a verdict, leading the second trial judge to order that he should be formally acquitted.

Mum-of-three Ann, who worked as a theatre nurse at Middlesbrough General Hospital, recalls: “We were left in a state of limbo. We had no closure. We felt very let down.”

And she adds: “He was bragging in pubs about how he’d killed our daughter and got away with the perfect murder.

“I was incensed.”

Violent tendencies

Dunlop had a history of violence and was arrested several times over the years. Eight years after Julie’s murder, in 1997, he was jailed for seven years after stabbing an ex-girlfriend and beating her new partner with a baseball bat.

Despite being in prison, he continued to threaten his ex, even sending her a letter, detailing how he would do what he had done to Julie when he was released.

Dunlop’s ex even took the letter to police but there was little they could do. As he had been cleared of murdering Julie, the double jeopardy law – which dates back to the Middle Ages – ruled that a person acquitted by a jury could not be tried again on the same charge, even if new evidence came to light.

Detectives tried to get more evidence by running a covert operation in the prison. Dunlop was later convicted of perjury and sentenced for six years after bragging to a female prison officer, who was wearing a wire, that he had strangled Julie.

Ann says of the perjury conviction: “It was very poor substitute.”

One-man band

A dedicated nurse and devoted wife, mother and grandmother, Ann Ming had no background in law.

So when she announced her plan to overturn the 800-year double jeopardy law there were countless people who doubted she could do it – even members of her own family.

Some people even tried to actively stop her. But softly-spoken Ann was undeterred in her unrelenting campaign to seek justice for her murdered daughter.

“I think people thought I had a team of lawyers backing me," she says.

“I was just a one-man band, writing letters into the night.”

She also reveals the bizarre encounter she had with a stranger who claimed that she could see Julie standing next to her – more than three decades after her death – congratulating her mum.

Ann says: “I was doing some training for some victim support counsellors, shortly after the law had been changed.

“Afterwards, this counsellor came up to me and told me she was medium and told me the whole time I was giving my talk, Julie was stood beside me.

“She told me Julie was so proud of me for what I had done and said, ‘well done, Mam.’ She said Julie was holding a bunch of pink carnations, which were her favourite flower.

“She could not have known that. I didn’t know this woman. I’d never seen her before.”

She adds: “It was so strange. It was nice though, a bit of comfort.”

Ann also reveals that after Julie’s death, she sought solace in another medium who told her: “Your daughter wanted you to find her, she couldn’t see you suffer any longer.”

Changing the law

During her campaign, Ann wrote to her MP, who later got her a meeting with the then home secretary Jack Straw.

She also met then-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and other members of the House of Lords to argue her case.

Ann recalls many “lawyers and police were against her fight” because they thought it might open the floodgates if the law changed.

And she admits even her late husband Charlie, Julie's dad, who died from dementia aged 88 in 2013, doubted her chances.

Ann says: “I always thought he was stronger than me. He didn’t handle things very well. He never got over losing Julie.

“He said, ‘what are you going to do if they knock you back?’ I said, ‘I’m not going to think like that.’ I didn’t listen to anybody and I’m glad about I carried on.”

She adds: “I thought common sense has got to prevail.”

Ann was at the Old Bailey to see Dunlop jailed after he pleaded guilty but another mystery, featured in the programme, still surrounds the case.

Just a few months before Julie’s disappearance, in June 1989, Tina Bell, 18, went missing from the town of Billingham, in an area then dubbed the Murder Mile.

Her remains were found the following April on nearby wasteland, just a few streets from where Julie’s body was found.

One of the last people to see her alive was Dunlop, as well as David Courtney, who lived just 300 yards from Tina’s home. He died in Wakefield Prison after being convicted of child sex offences.

Despite a cold case review, her murder remains unsolved.

Lasting change

But former Detective Chief Superintendent for Cleveland Police Mark Braithwaite, who retired from the force in 2010 and features in the film, which airs on Wednesday, remains hopeful.

He tells the Sun: “People’s attitudes change, people’s motivations change.”

Since Ann's campaign, the new law has secured multiple convictions, including Stephen Lawrence's killers.

She says: “I always see the victims’ families coming out of court and I think to myself that I’m glad I continued on, even though it was stressful.

“We had people against the changes.

“I’m pleased I have made a difference.”

Ann says she wanted to speak out in the documentary after it was recommended Dunlop, who is soon due for parole, be moved to an open prison – something she successfully blocked.

She explains: “I want people to know how stressful it is for victims' families.”

And she adds: “I would also like to see Tina’s family get the closure and justice they deserve.”

The Incident Room starts Wednesday 29 November, 8pm on Channel 5 & My5

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