Husband condemns ‘despicable’ killer

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A FORMER Blidworth school music teacher has described the man who killed his wife as a ‘despicable being’ after he finally admitted murdering the Thorntons employee.

David Simmonds (21) pleaded guilty to the murder of Jia Ashton at Nottingham Crown Court on Thursday, having always denied committing the crime before.

Jia’s body was found hidden under a pile of logs, twigs and leaves by a Mountain Rescue search dog in Sleetmoor Woods in Somercotes.

The 25-year-old, who had moved to the UK from China when she was 16 and was on the graduate trainee scheme at the chocolate company, was walking home from work through the woods on 10th March this year when she was attacked by Simmonds.

Det Supt Terry Branson, the senior investigating officer in the case, said that Jia had been the victim of a ‘sustained, violent and brutal attack’ by Simmonds.

She had received ‘horrendous’ injuries to her head and ‘significant’ compression to her chest which broke her ribs and caused trauma to her heart, fatally rupturing an atrium - an injury usually seen in car accidents or falls from height.

There was also some indication that there had been an attempt to strangle her, but there was no evidence of any sexual attack and no evidence of a weapon being used.

The petite victim - who stood at just 4ft 11ins and weighed six and a half stone - stood no chance against her killer, who was three times her weight and around six feet two inches tall.

In a statement read after the court hearing, Jia’s husband Matthew, who was a music teacher at Blidworth Oaks Primary School, said that ‘there cannot be a sentence severe enough’ for Simmonds.

“He has taken someone so special and irreplacable and for what?

“At one time we thought that answers would help us come to terms with what he did to Jia.

“I know now that these answers may never come.

“I hope that justice will be done and that this despicable being will never be free to kill again,” he said.

Police have never been able to establish a motive for Jia’s murder and believe robbery was the original intention.

Husband Matthew was quickly ruled out of the investigation after being initially suspected when he stayed in the Travelodge at Alfreton on the night of Jia’s murder following an argument.

A thorough and painstaking search of Sleetmoor Woods by police discovered the DNA and fingerprint evidence needed to trace Simmonds, a Swanwick man from a middle-class background.

Items belonging to Jia were discovered in various locations, including her bag - which was found thrown high into the trees - and her phone, MP3 player and glasses.

No matches to police forensics databases meant officers had to pursue other leads and it was witnesses who reported seeing an unkempt man in the woods that led them to contacting everyone registered homeless in the area.

Simmonds, a father-of-one, was on that register after fallouts with his family and girlfriend left him homeless, and when his fingerprints and DNA matched those found on Jia’s possessions he was arrested - eight weeks after her murder - at his new place of work, the Spice Inn in Heanor.

Det Supt Branson said: “Stranger attacks of this nature are extremely rare and this murder triggered a difficult and complex investigation which culminated in the arrest of David Simmonds.

“This case proved to be an immense challenge for the investigation team who worked tirelessly over several weeks to ensure that the killer was brought to justice in a relatively short time.”

Simmonds will be sentenced for Jia’s murder on Friday.