Jemma Mitchell jailed for life in live TV sentencing
A self-styled healer who murdered her friend and dumped her headless body in a wood in Deven has been sentenced life in prison live on TV. Jemma Mitchell became the first woman to be sentenced on television after being found guilty of killing Mee Kuen Chong at the Old Bailey on Thursday.
Judge Richard Marks KC told Mitchell: “You have shown absolutely no remorse and it appears you are in complete denial as to what you did… The enormity of your crime is profoundly shocking, even more so given your apparrent religious devotion as well as the fact Deborah Chong was a good friend to you and had shown you great kindness.”
Mitchell was sentenced to a minimum of 34 years, less 475 days spent in custody.
It was alleged Mitchell hit Ms Chong, 67, over the head with a weapon at her London home in June last year. Two weeks later, she drove more than 200 miles to the seaside town of Salcombe in Devon where she left devout Christian Ms Chong’s decapitated and badly decomposed body in woods.
The prosecution claimed Mitchell, 38, had planned to murder the vulnerable divorcee and fake her will to inherit the bulk of her estate, worth more than £700,000. She came up with the plan after Ms Chong, who was known as Deborah, backed out of giving her £200,000 to pay for repairs to Mitchell’s £4million dilapidated family home, jurors were told.
Jemma Mitchell dumped Mee Kuen Chong’s body in woods in Devon
Mee Kuen Chong
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The trained osteopath, who boasted online of her award-winning skill in human dissection, had denied having anything to do with Ms Chong’s death, but declined to give evidence at her trial.
Mitchell stood impassively in the dock as she was found guilty of murder while Ms Chong’s family in Malaysia watched the verdict via a video link on Thursday.
On Friday, Judge Marks was broadcast handing down his sentence to Mitchell at the Old Bailey.
It is only the second time cameras have been allowed into an English criminal crown court to record a sentencing and the first in a murder case in which the defendant is a woman.
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Mitchell dragging a blue suitcase and another smaller bag
Mitchell on Chaplin Road, north west London dragging a blue suitcase
The court heard on Friday Mitchell was a “highly intelligent” woman who gained a first class honours degree in human sciences from King’s College London before qualifying as an osteopath.
She went to live and work in Australia then returned to the UK to live with her mother in London in 2015. They lived together in a large property with the two of them deciding to add an upper floor.
Judge Marks said: “This proved to be your undoing.”
Mitchell and her mother paid £230,000 to two builders one of whom cheated them leaving a large part of Mitchell’s resources exhausted with the house left without a roof and covered in scaffolding.
Mitchell met her victim through the church some time in 2020. Judge Marks said it was clear from phone messages until her death that they had become very close.
Judge Marks said the evidence showed Ms Chong was “extremely generous”, but it also showed she had a history of mental illness, having been diagnosed a number of years ago with paranoid schizophrenia.
The court heard that shortly before Mitchell killed her, Ms Chong suffered a relapse and against her will had been placed in anti-psychotic medication.
Judge Marks said: “As such, and as you well knew, she was particulary vulnerable both mentally as well as physically and the jury saw from the CCTV evidence how in the days before her death she walked with difficulty, needing to hold onto the arm of her lodger as she did so.”
A screen grab taken from CCTV issued by Metropolitan Police of Mitchell entering a service station
The court heard the messages between Ms Chong and Mitchell showed the pensioner was being proactive in trying to help, culminating in her offering to give Mitchell £200,000 to spend on the house, an offer which she withdrew a few days before she was murdered.
On June 11 last year, Mitchell set off early from her home, taking a large suitcase with her by public transport to Ms Chong’s address where she stayed for over five hours.
When she emerged, Judge Marks said it was clear from the evidence Mitchell had injured her hand, adding it could only have happened while she was inside and must have happened while she was killing Ms Chong.
Mitchell later attended St Thomas’s Hospital where she was treated for a fractured finger, claiming it had been trapped in a car door. Judge Marks said that was clearly a lie.
Mitchell was later spotted with a second case, later recovered from her home, which belonged to Ms Chong. It contained several documents belonging to Ms Chong, including her passport, driving licence, naturalisation papers, bank, credit and loyalty cards.
Judge Marks said: “That large suitcase contained Deborah Chong’s body. I have no doubt you killed her whilst you were at her house and absent any explanation from you… I am driven the conclusion that you went to her house that morning with that intention in mind.”
Mitchell hired a car for 24 hours two weeks later and was spotted on CCTV, putting the suitcase with Ms Chong’s body inside into the vehicle.
The court heard Mitchell’s plans went “awry” when a car tyre was punctured en route to Devon. It meant Mitchell had less time in the county to find a place to dump the body than she had wanted.
Mitchell left Ms Chong’s body at the bottom of some steps on a public footpath by woodland near Bennett Road, Salcombe.
Judge Marks said: “A truly telling piece of evidence against you was the fact that that evening, after the punctured tyre had been repaired, your hire car was seen being driven by you on Bennett Road 15 metres away from where Deborah’s body was found the following afternoon by a lady who was out walking.
“That grim discovery was made all the worse by the fact that her head had been cut off and was not found until a number of days later, some 10 metres away from the body further down the hill beneath some undergrowth.”
Due to level of decomposition, the court heard it was not possible to ascertain the cause of death, but what was found was she had suffered a fracture to the skull as well as multiple rib fractures.
The court heard that as part of her degree, Mitchell was taught anatomy, including on her website the fact she had experience of dissecting human bodies.
Judge Marks said why Mitchell chose to decapitate Ms Chong remains a mystery.
When Mitchell was arrested on July 6, police found a fake will which showed Ms Chong leaving 95 percent of her assets to Mitchell and the remaining five percent to Mitchell’s mother.
The fake will included signatures forged by Mitchell, including of a neighbour who died months earlier.
Judge Marks explained Mitchell had managed to get inside the deceased neighbour’s home, taking his passport as well as his mobile phone. She rang the phone company pretending to be him. His phone was reactivated as a result and it was his mobile rather than Mitchell’s which was used to book the hire car. She also took his phone to Devon instead of her own.
The judge said: “Apart from anything else, I am driven to the conclusion you are extremely devious.”