Bernadette Walker: search for missing teenager remains unresolved

On 7 September 2020, Scott Walker posted a plea on Facebook for his daughter, 17-year-old Bernadette, to come home. She had been missing since 18 July after apparently jumping out of his car and running away when he pulled over on a drive home. “We are both worried. We miss u. We need to know that you’re safe,” he said on behalf of himself and Sarah Walker, Bernadette’s mother.

More than a year after her disappearance, Scott Walker has been found guilty of Bernadette’s murder.while Sarah Walker, his ex-partner, has been found guilty by majority verdicts of two counts of perverting the course of justice “knowing or believing” Bernadette to be dead. Bernadette has never been found.

One of her brothers and a small group of friends are leading a Facebook group of more than 1,700 members and are still committed to finding her in the hope that she may still be alive and in hiding, or to at least find something that will bring closure to those who loved her.

The prosecution maintained that Scott Walker, 51, killed her in July last year to silence her claims that he had sexually abused her, and had probably buried her body in the countryside near Peterborough, where the family lived.

“No one who knew her or loved her has heard from her since that day,” the prosecutor Lisa Wilding QC told the court. “She has not used or sought to access her telephone or social media accounts. She has had access to no money or banking and has not been seen at any hospital or other surgery.”

Elizabeth Marsh QC, representing Scott Walker, said there was no forensic evidence that proved Bernadette was dead, such as blood or a weapon, and questioned whether the defendant was capable of carrying out a murder that could beat “the brightest brains the police have to offer”.

“The police have conducted a search over a number of weeks, using dogs, divers and drones in every geographical area [where] the police and the prosecution consider there is a chance of the body being disposed,” she said. “For all the hours and days that search continued, they were ultimately unsuccessful.”

She maintained that Bernadette could have travelled abroad, or could be keeping a low profile in order to avoid “an old life she wanted to leave behind”.

Bernadette, also known as Bee and Bernie to friends, was a photography student at Peterborough College at the time of her disappearance. Described by friends as “something of a goth” who liked to dye her hair bright colours, she was very active on social media and conducted many of her friendships online.

On 16 July 2020, she claimed to her mother that Scott Walker – whom she called Dad but who was not her biological father – had been sexually abusing her “over a number of years”, including allegations that he had hidden cameras in the bathroom. Scott Walker denies the allegations.

Sarah Walker sent a number of messages indicating she did not believe her daughter, and the next day it was decided that Bernadette would spend the night at her grandparents’ house nearby for the situation to calm down.

Scott Walker picked her up the following morning and insists that Bernadette jumped out the car and ran off when he pulled over to roll a cigarette on the way home.

His phone was turned off for about 90 minutes, during which it was thought he killed Bernadette on the Fens, near Peterborough. The defence maintained it was implausible he could have done so unseen in an area likely populated with runners and dog walkers on a Saturday morning in July.

When he switched his phone back on, he immediately called Sarah Walker, with the prosecution alleging that the pair then formed an “unholy alliance” to cover up the murder.

Her mother did not report Bernadette missing to police for three days, on 21 July, and initially told police that her daughter had been messaging until the day before.

It transpired that Scott and Sarah Walker had sent a number of messages from Bernadette’s phone, as well as changing passwords to her account and asking friends to block her because they claimed she had lied about the sexual abuse allegations. Sarah Walker sent a message to one of Bernadette’s friends, pretending to be her daughter, that said: “I ran away, I don’t want to be in trouble for lying.”

Sarah Walker subsequently admitted two counts of perverting the course of justice, although she denied believing Bernadette was dead.

The verdict is likely to bring some solace to the friends and family who continue to search for her, but while Bernadette remains missing, their agony continues.

“To this day, neither [Scott or Sarah] accepts that Bee is dead,” said Wilding at the opening of the trial.

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