Real Life

True crime story: What really happened to Jane Harrison?

After almost two decades, my family thought we’d finally got the justice we deserved. But then a letter arrived and I felt sickened.

Maxine Harrison, 58, shares her real life story...

I scanned the club and when I spotted my sister being chatted up, I marched over and pulled her aside.

'Jane,' I said. 'What are you doing with that arrogant pig?'

'He's nice,' she replied.

Her admirer was named Kevin. We'd met him earlier that night, but he seemed to think he was God's gift to women.

'You're way better than him,' I told her.

Despite my obvious disapproval, Jane went on to form a relationship with Kevin.

He told her he was married with children, but that he'd recently left his wife.

Jane introduced Kevin to her son Matt from a previous relationship.

In time, she went on to have another son, Alex, with him.

But before long, the initial sparkle in Jane's eyes was replaced with a constant look of worry and fear that puzzled me.

'Is everything OK?' I asked.

'It's Kevin,' she replied glumly. 'He's changed.'

'How do you mean?' I said.

'He's moody and controlling,' she replied. 'I've had enough.'

When she broke up with Kevin, I felt relieved.

One day, I was in the park with Jane and the boys when she froze and looked at me with wide eyes.

'What's wrong?' I asked.

'Kevin's over there,' she said.

Jane, Maxine and sister, Claire source: supplied

I looked across the park and saw him peering out from behind a tree.

'What the…?!' I said.

'He's following me,' Jane replied.

'What the hell is wrong with that man?' I said, furious. 'I told you he was bad news.'

I wanted to shout at him, but instead I followed Jane's lead and ushered the boys out of the park before we made our way home.

I felt shocked when days later Jane said she'd got back with him.

It became extremely difficult to keep up with their volatile on-off relationship. But I vowed to be there for Jane regardless.

One day, Jane rang me and sounded flustered.

'I bought a joint of meat, but it's disappeared,' she said.

I laughed.

'What on earth are you talking about?' I asked.

'It's gone,' Jane replied.

'Shut up!' I said.

'I'm serious,' Jane said.

But it happened again and again. Her clothes and shoes began to vanish, and then Alex's pram disappeared. Jane thought she was going mad.

'No, you're not,' I reassured her. 'I bet Kevin's doing it.'

'No,' she replied. 'He wouldn't.'

Weeks later, Jane said there was a terrible smell in her house.

I dropped by to help her find the cause of the stench.

'It smells like it's coming from the boiler,' I said.

Jane called an engineer.

Our jaws dropped when he found the missing meat wedged down the back of the boiler.

'I told you,' I said. 'Kevin's playing mind games with you.'

Photo of Jane source: supplied

Later, Jane rang me. She wept as she explained she'd confronted Kevin and he'd confessed.

'He took me to a lock-up,' she explained. 'All of my missing things were there.'

'You have to leave him,' I said. 'He's evil.'

Weeks later, I was in bed when a call from Kevin woke me.

'Yes?' I said.

'Is Jane with you?' he asked.

'You know full well she's not,' I replied. 'She's with you.'

'No, she isn't,' he said. 'I dropped her at your mum's.'

His words turned me cold. My mum Dillis wasn't home. She was in Ireland. I hung up and turned to my partner.

'He's killed her,' I said.

I tried to phone Jane, but there was no answer, and I wondered if I was overreacting.

The next morning, Kevin turned up at my home.

'Is Jane here with you?' he asked.

'You know she isn't,' I said. 'She better turn up, Kevin, or I'm going to report her missing.'

Later, when I still hadn't heard from Jane, I phoned Kevin.

'If I haven't heard anything from her by 5 pm, I'm calling the police,' I said firmly.

He told me he'd already reported her missing.

I hung up and phoned the police station right away.

'It's my sister, Jane,' I told an officer. 'Kevin Doherty has reported her missing, but I think he's actually killed her.'

I gave a description of Jane and a search got underway.

It turned out she had last been seen at a shopping centre and police retrieved a CCTV image of her with Kevin.

He was arrested and told police he thought Jane had run off with another man.

Kevin also claimed to have spoken to her on the phone twice since she'd gone missing.

With no body and no hard evidence linking Kevin to Jane's disappearance, he was released.

In time, the active investigation was closed.

My family felt devastated.

Kevin turned his back on Alex and Mum took care of the boys, who missed their loving, doting mother so much.

We all did. Without Jane, the world was a dark, empty place.

In my heart, I knew Kevin had murdered my sister. It sickened and frustrated me to know he'd walked away scot-free.

An image of Kevin Doherty source: supplied

Years passed.

My dad Johnny suffered a stroke and died.

Five years later, Mum passed away from cancer.

It broke my heart to know my parents had gone to their graves not knowing what had happened.

Then, 15 years after Jane had gone missing, there was a breakthrough, and the police reopened the case.

New technology to analyse mobile phone records showed Kevin hadn't been where he'd claimed he was at the time Jane had vanished, and he'd lied when he told police he'd spoken to her twice on the phone after she was last seen.

Kevin was arrested once again.

In time, Kevin Doherty, 57, appeared in court, where he denied murdering my beautiful sister.

The court heard Kevin had been leading a double life and was still with his wife while making a family with Jane.

After Jane's disappearance, he'd rung the flat's landline using his mobile and pretended to Jane's son Matt that he was talking to her.

He'd told a neighbour he was scouring the streets looking for her, but mobile phone records showed he was in fact near a lock-up garage he kept nearby.

At the end of the trial, Doherty was found guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Christopher Moss told him: 'Only you know what truly occurred all those years ago, how she died and where her remains lie. Only you can decide whether anyone will ever know.'

He told Kevin he bore a 'heavy and wicked responsibility' for not letting my family know where he had disposed of Jane's body.

The judge sentenced Kevin to 12 years behind bars.

My family stood up in court and clapped.

We still didn't have closure. We never would, unless Kevin voluntarily revealed what he'd done with Jane's body.

But at least evil Kevin was now where he belonged.

Then, less than halfway into his sentence, I received a letter from a probation officer.

Maxine now source: supplied

As I sat down at home and started to read it, my body began trembling with pure rage.

Kevin was going to be released in November 2018 after serving just half of his 12-year sentence.

Our family and the dedicated police had fought for years to bring Kevin to justice.

His early release felt like an insult to Jane and our efforts.

I told my family: 'He's got away with a slap on the wrist for killing Jane and leaving two children without a mother.'

We believe the law has to be changed around the world.

Whether it's manslaughter or murder, someone who takes a life deserves life in jail.

It's no wonder that crime rates are sky high when this is the punishment for killing someone.

I'm in full support of Helen's Law, a proposal in the UK which will prevent parole for killers who refuse to reveal the location of their victims' bodies.

My life will never be the same without Jane. It pains me every day that we still don't know where she is and can't say goodbye.We can't bury her and can't grieve for her properly.

Kevin will walk the streets a free man and carry on just like before. But because of him, I will be living in hell until the day I die.

If I had my way, he'd be locked up forever. He took the life of our beautiful Jane, so why should he
get his back?

● Some names have been changed.