Life in prison for the man who battered Jia to death

Undated Derbyshire Police handout photo of David Simmonds, 21, who has pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court today to the murder of economics graduate Jia Ashton, 25, whose body was found in woodland near her workplace. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday September 29, 2011. See PA story COURTS Woods. Photo credit should read: Derbyshire Police/PA Wire 'NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Undated Derbyshire Police handout photo of David Simmonds, 21, who has pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court today to the murder of economics graduate Jia Ashton, 25, whose body was found in woodland near her workplace. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday September 29, 2011. See PA story COURTS Woods. Photo credit should read: Derbyshire Police/PA Wire 'NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A ‘COMPULSIVE liar’ and ‘dangerous man’ were the words used to describe Jia Ashton’s killer as he was sentenced to life in jail.

Only weeks before his 22nd birthday, David Simmonds was sent down for a minimum of 28 years for bringing an end to the life of an ‘extraordinary woman’.

Undated Derbyshire Police handout photo of Jia Ashton and her husband Matthew Ashton who has said he was having trouble sleeping since the body of his 25-year-old wife Jia was found last month. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 4, 2011. Mrs Ashton, who lived with her husband in Somercotes, Derbyshire, and worked at chocolate maker Thorntons' site in nearby Swanwick, disappeared on March 10 and was found dead in Sleetmoor Woods three days later. An anonymous benefactor has since offered a reward of up to �20,000 for information to catch Mrs Ashton's killer. See PA story POLICE Woods. Photo credit should read: Derbyshire Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Undated Derbyshire Police handout photo of Jia Ashton and her husband Matthew Ashton who has said he was having trouble sleeping since the body of his 25-year-old wife Jia was found last month. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 4, 2011. Mrs Ashton, who lived with her husband in Somercotes, Derbyshire, and worked at chocolate maker Thorntons' site in nearby Swanwick, disappeared on March 10 and was found dead in Sleetmoor Woods three days later. An anonymous benefactor has since offered a reward of up to �20,000 for information to catch Mrs Ashton's killer. See PA story POLICE Woods. Photo credit should read: Derbyshire Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Nottingham Crown Court heard different versions of why the young man from a middle class upbringing committed such a brutal crime.

Stuart Rafferty QC, prosecuting, detailed how Simmonds, formally of Swanwick, dragged 4ft 10ins tall Jia from the Sleetmoor Woods path into undergrowth in Somercotes, while she was alive before beating her to death.

Mr Rafferty described to the packed public gallery how it was the prosecution’s belief that Simmonds had intended to sexually assault her as well as rob and murder her.

DNA evidence found on Jia’s trouser zip and the state in which her body was found, with her bra exposed, pointed towards a sexual act having taken place, he said.

But in mitigation, the killer’s defence lawyer Shaun Smith, said there was not sufficient evidence to suggest a sexual intent to the attack as the way she was dragged could have exposed parts of her body.

Judge Michael Stokes conceded that the only person that would ever fully know what happened at around 5pm on March 10 was Simmonds. He ruled out the possibility of the attack being sexually motivated on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Her body was found by searchers three days later. The Thorntons worker has been on her way home from work when she was attacked.

In sentencing him the judge said: “You have pleaded guilty very late in the day to a truly terrible crime which has left the husband and family of your victim utterly devastated.

“I recognise it has placed immense distress on your own family who cannot understand why you have done what you have done.”

He went on to say: “I am also satisfied that whatever your initial motive may have been, there came a point where you intended to kill her.

“Her injuries are testimony to the brutal nature of the assault you perpetrated upon her.

“Her final moments must have been ones of abject terror.”

The judge labelled him an habitual liar having changed his alibi several times. At first he told a friend he was chased through the woods by three men. Later he explained scratches and cuts on his face to friends as the result of a bar brawl. At one point it was revealed he had even sat calmly at his parents’ home near Sleetmoor Woods as they talked of the ongoing murder investigation going on nearby.

Simmonds, tattooed behind the right ear and with curly hair, did not flinch as his sentence was read to him.

Mr Rafferty explained how more than 100 items were used to conceal Jia’s body, including logs and twigs.

In a statement read outside the court after the hearing Judith Walker, chief crown prosecutor for Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands, said the way he disposed of Jia ‘was not the result of confusion or disorientation’. Jia’s phone had been snapped in half, which only a short time before she had attempted to call her husband, Matthew, 26, of Springfield Crescent, on. However she could not get through to the music teacher and left him a message apologising for an argument they had the night before. She told her husband she wanted to ‘do something nice’ that evening to make up for it.

By the time Matthew received the voicemail she was already dead.

Simmonds, who himself worked at Thorntons for a brief period, had at one point told police that the reason for his killing Jia was because she recognised him. In a panic he spread the stolen items throughout the woods, he claimed.