TEENAGE shop worker Jenny Nicholl left the family home in Richmond on June 30, 2005 telling her mum Ann that she would not be back that night.

There was nothing unusual about this. Jenny had an active social life and would often stay with friends. However, by the following Monday when the 19-year-old had failed to turn up to work at the town’s Co-op supermarket her family was becoming increasingly concerned and decided to call the police.

The same day her car, a white Rover 25, was found abandoned in the car park at the Holly Hill pub, on the edge of Richmond.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Detectives quickly discovered that Jenny was involved in a relationship with married middle-aged man David Hodgson.

Detectives interviewed Hodgson nine days after Jenny’s disappearance. He denied that he was having an affair with the teenager, but police were not convinced.

Darlington and Stockton Times:
MURDER: Jenny Nicholl disappeared from the family home in Richmond, North Yorkshire, on June 30, 2005

The following day, two of Jenny’s friends received texts from the teenager’s phone.

The texts gave the family and police hope that she was safe.

This hope was raised several days later when Jenny’s father, Brian, also received two texts from the phone.

At the end of July, Hodgson was found in a crudely constructed den, having taken an overdose of pills and wine, on the moors near Hudswell.

He later admitted that he was involved in a relationship with Jenny.

In November, police revealed that the missing person inquiry had become a murder hunt.

Extensive searches were conducted in the countryside around Richmond, with particular focus on the Sandbeck Plantation – an area of thick woodland where Hodgson and his friends had constructed several wooden huts where they would camp, drink and play cards.

In January 2006, David Hodgson and his brother, Robert, were arrested on suspicion of murder. David was later bailed, while Robert was freed without charge.

Darlington and Stockton Times:
Jenny Nicholl and her killer, David Hodgson, would meet in ramshackle wooden huts hidden in Sandbeck Plantation, on the outskirts of Richmond

Several days later Jenny’s parents were inspecting the Sandbeck Plantation when they found their daughter’s nightdress and cosmetics partially buried under leaves. Her CD player and teddy were later found in the woods. These discoveries were to become central to the prosecution case against David Hodgson when he was charged with the teenager’s murder.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The trial at Teesside Crown Court lasted more than five weeks.

As well as Jenny’s possessions, the key evidence included the text messages sent from Jenny’s mobile phone to her friends and her father which the prosecution said were sent by the defendant to cover his tracks. Experts traced the messages and found they had been sent from the Scottish Borders on days when Hodgson had hired cars and had gone on long journeys.

The prosecution claimed Hodgson was an intensely jealous man, who was angry about Jenny’s blossoming relationship with his brother Robert in the months before her disappearance.

It was suggested that he killed her – possibly after a row – on the evening she went missing at the Sandbeck Plantation, but police were never able to pinpoint a crime scene.

The jury deliberated for ten hours over two days but eventually found Hodgson guilty. He was handed a life sentence and told he would serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.