How Did She Die?

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IT if takes one year ... two years ... or 20 years ... we'll get justice for Jane.

That was the message from the devastated family of Burnley mum Jane Payne, whose disappearance and death this summer are still shrouded in mystery and unanswered questions.

Her disappearance in April sparked a massive murder-style inquiry by police which ended with her body being found by a farmer at a deserted Thursden Valley beauty spot six weeks later.

This week her aunt, Mrs Liz Chadwick, spoke of how 29-year-old's Jane tragic death was still keenly felt by the close-knit family which has rallied round to bring up her orphaned daughter, Chelsea, who is three.

The family this week welcomed an open verdict at an inquest into Jane's death in which East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor highlighted a series of "unanswered questions" and suspicions raised by the actions of those who were last to see her alive.

"We are more than happy with an open verdict as this means that, should further evidence come to light, the case can be re-opened," a family spokesman said after the emotional hearing.

"We will continue to fight for justice for our Jane and however long it takes we will not give up."

The family urged locals to once again dig deep into their memories for any information that may help them learn how their "beautiful girl who went down the wrong road in life" met her death.

"Jane did not go to where she was found, on her own," added the spokesman.

"Somebody somewhere knows how she got there and we ask that anybody who knows anything, no matter how small, should go to the police."

The family are still offering a reward for information into the death of Jane, who had been left shattered by the death of her partner Mr Elliott Holt, little Chelsea's father, just months before.

"Jane leaves behind a three-year-old little girl who misses her mum and who deserves to know what happened," said the family.

QUESTIONS still remain unanswered as to how a young Burnley mum met her death earlier this year.

This week East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor recorded an open verdict into the death of 29-year-old Jane Payne, whose body was found in a remote beauty spot on the outskirts of Burnley six weeks after she was reported missing.

Police launched a huge search in April when mother-of-one Jane went missing and, despite a murder-style investigation, there were no traces or sightings of her until she was found at the Thursden Valley in mid-May.

The inquest heard evidence from Jane's partner, heroin addict Mr Kevin Feeney, who had originally been arrested, along with another man, on suspicion of her murder but was later released without charge. He reported she left their home in Queen Victoria Road late on Friday, March 31st, and was last seen around 3 a.m. at a friend's home.

On the night of Jane's disappearance, Mr Feeney said he and Jane had both used heroin and drank cider, and she left home between 11 p.m. and midnight. He disputed the claims of their next-door neighbour who said she had heard them arguing.

Det. Sgt Mark Rothwell also told the inquest more than 500 lines of inquiry were covered, 800 statements recorded and 263 people interviewed in the police investigation which revealed there were no sightings of Jane on CCTV. Her body had also been found barefoot and her shoes never found.

"I am 100% certain she was taken to that spot dead or alive," he said. "Although it would have been very difficult to take a body there it would not have been impossible, but would have taken more than one person."

The detective also stressed he was "very suspicious" that Mr Feeney had scrupulously cleaned his home after the disappearance, telling police: "I like to keep a clean house." While Mr Basil Dearing, the solicitor acting on behalf of Jane's family, also suggested Mr Feeney had already been involved in two cases where people had died from drugs overdoses.

Pathologist Dr Charles Wilson, who conducted a post-mortem examination, told the coroner he could not be certain of a cause of death or how long Jane, who occasionally worked on the streets of Duke Bar, had lain undiscovered. "It could certainly have been April 1st," he said, adding there was no evidence of significant blows or trauma or no grass or drag marks on her body or clothes.

He told the inquest he had found four times the legal drink-drive level of alcohol in Jane's body and some morphine – at the lowest end at which deaths have been recorded – so he could not rule out a drugs overdose as a cause of her death.

"The weather was very cold for that time of year and I also cannot exclude hypothermia as a cause of death," he went on. "Hypothermia causes people to feel warmer than they actually are and two items of Jane's clothing were found nearby."

Summing up, the coroner said many questions remained unanswered and Mr Feeney's actions led to "considerable suspicion". "In particular, his not contacting police for some time about Jane's disappearance and the thorough cleaning of his house leave questions unanswered," he added. "I believe Jane was taken to the spot where she was found dead, or close to death."