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Salcombe Murder Trial: Jemma Mitchell found guilty

SA Updated
Salcombe Murder Trial: Jemma Mitchell found guilty

Jemma Mitchell has been found guilty of the murder of Mee Kuen Chong, whose headless body was dumped in Salcombe. 

Jemma Mitchell has been found guilty of the murder of her church friend Mee Kuen Chong, 67, and then dumping her headless body on Bennett Road in Salcombe.

A radiologist who examined Ms Chong's injuries told the court it was "likely she had been hit over the head with a weapon".

Detectives who searched Mitchell's house found Ms Chong's personal and financial documents, and a will that had been created on Mitchell's computer after Ms Chong's death.

Mitchell had named herself and her mother as the beneficiaries of Ms Chong's estate, valued at about £700,000.

Ms Chong had told her friend Ms Mitchell to sell her £4m house and "enjoy the money" because "life is too short" before that same friend allegedly murdered her for her money.

Mitchell later murdered her friend, stuffed her into a suitcase and forged a will.

The court heard that at the time of Ms Chong's death, Ms Mitchell was living with her mother at a family home in London, which needed repairing. It had no roof and was surrounded in scaffolding.

Ms Heer described Ms Mitchell as a "devout Christian" who met Ms Chong through the church, but they had recently fallen out over money. It is thought that Ms Chong agreed to hand Ms Mitchell £200,000 to help with the renovations, but changed her mind. 

The prosecution proved that Ms Chong, who had schizophrenia, was murdered on 11 June.

CCTV showed Ms Mitchell dragging a large blue suitcase through London after leaving Ms Chong's house. The prosecution alleges that that suitcase contained Ms Chong's dead body and she then hired a car and drove to Salcombe where she dumped Ms Chong's decapitated body on Bennett Road.

A holidaymaker made the grim discovery the next day, on 26 June 2021.

The location of the body on Bennett Road, Salcombe

 

The suitcase used to transport Ms Chong's body to Salcombe

Metropolitan Police issued a statement as the judgement was released:

Jemma Mitchell, 38 (22.07.84), of Brondesbury Park, NW6, was found guilty of the murder of 67-year-old Mee Kuen Chong (also known as Deborah Chong) following the conclusion of a trial at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 27 October.

Mitchell was remanded in custody to be sentenced at the same court on Friday, 28 October.

The court heard how Mitchell had met Deborah through a church group and the pair had been on friendly terms – Mitchell had also acted as a spiritual healer for Deborah.

Mitchell had been in the process of renovating her house but was in desperate need of funds to complete the work. Deborah had agreed to provide this money, believed to be in the region of £200,000, but at some point had changed her mind. This decision – just days before the murder - led to the pair falling out.

Deborah was last seen alive on 10 June 2021 by one of her lodgers.

On the morning of 11 June 2021 Mitchell went to Deborah’s house in Wembley and most likely killed her. She was captured on CCTV leaving the direction of the address pulling two large, wheeled suitcases – by Mitchell’s actions the suitcases appeared to be heavy.

After getting a minicab back to her house, it appears Mitchell kept the body in her property for around two weeks before driving to Salcombe in Devon on 26 June and dumping Deborah’s remains.

In that time, Mitchell had made a false report via email to a missing persons charity and sent a WhatsApp message to Deborah’s lodger saying Deborah had gone to spend time with her family for a year to clear her head. Perhaps most chillingly, given where Deborah was eventually found, Mitchell also wrote she had planned to stay ‘somewhere close to the ocean’.

Deborah’s body was found on 27 June by an overgrown pathway off Bennett Road, Salcombe. Her head was removed from her body and found a few metres away. Due to decomposition identification was not possible for several days.

A post-mortem examination confirmed Deborah had suffered a skull fracture along with other injuries consistent with an assault – it also concluded the head could not have been removed by animal activity meaning Mitchell, who had a degree in osteopathy and experience in human dissection, most likely removed it.

After reports began to circulate that a body had been discovered in Salcombe, Mitchell – no doubt realising that it was Deborah’s – made a further fraudulent report via email on 30 June to the missing persons charity, stating Deborah had contacted her to say she felt neglected and was staying with family by the sea.

Mitchell had also forged a copy of Deborah’s will ensuring 95% of the estate was left in her name. This was found at Mitchell’s property following her arrest, along with various possessions belonging to Deborah.

Also found were identity documents for a neighbour of Mitchell’s who had died in May 2021. Mitchell had used this person’s identity as a witness to the forged will, as well as reactivating their mobile phone which she used to hire a car to transport Deborah’s body to Devon.

Once Deborah had been identified as the deceased, detectives began to speak to those who knew her and quickly began to suspect Mitchell of involvement. She was arrested at her home on 6 July but declined to answer any of the questions put to her while in custody. Mitchell was charged with Deborah’s murder on 9 July.

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Eastwood who led the investigation said: “The motivation for Jemma Mitchell’s actions was money and she showed a significant degree of planning and calculation as she attempted to cover up her horrific actions. The cold facts of this case are shocking.

“Deborah Chong was a vulnerable lady – in the weeks before her murder, she was seeking help for her declining mental health.

“However, Mitchell – so desperate to obtain the money she needed to complete the renovations on her house – sought to take advantage of Deborah’s good will, but when Deborah changed her mind, she callously murdered her and embarked upon an attempt to fraudulently obtain her estate.

“Over the course of two weeks following Deborah’s murder we can only speculate as to what Mitchell did with the body and what her wider plan was.

“The decomposition when the body was found was at such an advanced state that Mitchell may have begun to fear Deborah’s body would be discovered – whether this forced her into moving the body and why she chose Salcombe in Devon, we may never know.

“However, what is clear is that Mitchell – seeing her chance to obtain the funds she so desperately desired disappear – decided to attack and murder a vulnerable lady for her own gain in a truly despicable crime.”

 

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