What could have led a woman to kill her friend, behead her, put her in a suitcase, store her body for two weeks, then dump her in a forest more than 300 km away?
For Jemma Mitchell, the answer is simple: greed.
“Mitchell is a ruthless killer. The motivation was money. The cold facts of this case are shocking,” said Chief Detective Jim Eastwood of the London Metropolitan Police, ahead of his sentencing which, for the first time in England and Wales, was broadcast live on Friday.
Mitchell, 38, was sentenced to life imprisonmentwith a minimum term of 34 years.
Story of two friends
This is the story of a friendship that began within a christian congregation and ended with one woman dead and another facing life behind bars.
It was a summer afternoon in a seaside town that events took an unexpected and terrifying turn. A family of tourists stumbled upon a headless body.
Mee Kuen Chong, also known as Deborah, 67 years old and born in Malaysia, she was missing for 16 days.
His headless body was found in a forest in Salcombe, Devon, in south-west England, some 200 miles from his home in north-west London.
His head was found nearby a few days later.
A year later, the murder trial at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, known as the Old Bailey, revealed lurid details that few could forget.
Deanna Heer KC (Queen’s Counsel) described the case.
It was basic and simple: “Jemma Mitchell assaulted and killed the deceased and then transported her body to Salcombe in the big blue suitcase where she attempted to dispose of her.”
During the two-week hearing, Mitchell listened from the dock and Chong’s family watched via video from Malaysia.
Heer told the jury that the prosecution was not required to prove motive, “but in this case, the reason is clear: money“.
House in a state of abandonment
Mitchell is from a wealthy background, had a private education, and a mother who used to work in the Foreign Office.
He has property in Australia, where he was born, and the family home in London in an area where properties do not sell for less than $1.1 million.
Text messages from Chong showed that she believed Mitchell’s house was worth $4.6 million.
This house, however, needed a renovation. The rooms were packed with stuff and some of them were impossible to get into, Heer explained to the jury.
“There were boxes and suitcases, freezers full of food, old mattresses and building materials everywhere. The kitchen was dirty, with rotten food and mess, with paper covering the surfaces,” Heer said.
“The bathroom was stained and in disrepair. The place looked like a hoarder’s residence. The second floor of the property was undergoing renovations with incomplete walls and ceilings.”
The court heard that Chong had offered Mitchell US$230,000 to help repair his house, but he backed down on the offer. Shortly after, she disappeared.
Both women considered themselves committed Christians. They had met through the Church in the summer of 2020.
Mitchell used an online dating site called Christian Connection, where Chong posted evangelical messages.
It is not known what attracted the women to each other, but Chong was a vulnerable woman with mental health issues and Mitchell, who had a degree in osteopathy, offered her health advice and spiritual healing.
Chong was known for her generous naturefor befriending the homeless and opening her door to those in need.
Apparently both They seemed to be on good terms. But then Chong’s body was found and detectives began looking at security camera footage.
After that, the mystery began to unravel.
What the cameras revealed
As Eastwood explained, there was “a significant amount of evidence” pointing to Mitchell.
CCTV cameras showed “Mitchell to and from the area of Deborah’s address on the day she disappeared. There was also key CCTV footage that captured Mitchell as he traveled to Devon and back.”
“We were able to recover the blue wheeled suitcase which we claim he used to transport Deborah’s body from Chaplin Road to his own address in Brondesbury Park, and then to Devon.”
Mitchell also reactivated the phone number of a neighbor who had died and took it with her.
“We were able to show that he left his own mobile phone at home while using his deceased neighbour’s phone on the way to and from Devon,” Eastwood explained.
And then, police officers searching for Mitchell’s address found the reason for the shady deception and the latest betrayal of a friendship.
“We find willswhich we were able to prove had been fraudulently created and signed in order to make a significant claim on Deborah’s estate,” Eastwood said.
“They were along with personal and financial documents, which Mitchell had taken from Deborah’s address on June 11.”
The prosecution told the jury that Mitchell “intended to use them for his own personal gain.”
Eastwood described the cool-headed planning as “horrible”.
Much of the focus of the trial was centered on the blue suitcase which Mitchell was seen dragging through the streets of the capital.
The prosecution said that Mitchell had brought the suitcase to Chong’s house with the intention of killing her and putting her body inside.
Jurors heard that when Mitchell left Chong’s house, the suitcase seemed “much heavier and more difficult to maneuver.”
Two weeks later, using a false name and having reactivated the dead neighbor’s phone number, he rented a car, packed his suitcase, and drove to Devon.
This trip, the prosecution said, was made to dispose of Chong’s body.
“When you consider the calculated way in which Mitchell planned this murder, by reconnecting a deceased neighbor’s mobile phone before the murder so that he could use it while transporting the victim’s remains to Devon, to carrying the suitcase to the Deborah’s house, knowing that he would use it to take her body after he killed her, that is a truly evil act,” Eastwood said.
Between Chong’s death and the trip to Salcombe, Mitchell showed further insight by having a date at the London Zoo with someone he had met online.
However, calculation and planning only took Mitchell so far. Even she couldn’t have imagined that she would have a damaged tire.
The mechanic who came to change the tire noticed that Mitchell was acting strange. He also noticed a “weird smell” in the vehicle and found it strange that Mitchell insisted on keeping the bad tire in the back seat instead of the trunk.
Mitchell refused to testify during his trial. From arrest on July 6, 2021has remained silent during all this time.
The court heard how Mitchell graduated from King’s College London with a BA in human sciences, which included a course in experimental anatomy.
She had the abilities to dismember a body. She had the abilities to remove the head, although it is unclear why she did it.
She also worked as an osteopath in Australia for seven years before returning to the UK in 2015, where she lived with her mother and sister, with whom she had a turbulent relationship.
Mitchell is the only person who knows exactly what happened on Chaplin Road, in the Chong house, on that terrible day in June 2021.
“We can only speculate on what Mitchell did and what his overall plan was,” Eastwood said.
“It is almost certain that Mitchell beheaded Deborah during this time.”.
“The decomposition when the body was found was at such an advanced stage that Mitchell may have begun to fear that Deborah’s body would be discovered – we may never know if this forced her to move the body and why she chose Salcombe in Devon” .
“However, what is clear is that Mitchell, seeing his opportunity to obtain the funds he so desperately wanted disappear, decided to target and murder a vulnerable woman for his own gain in a truly despicable crime.”
Now you can receive notifications from BBC World. Download the new version of our app and activate it so you don’t miss out on our best content.
– Article Written By @ from news.google.com