Mourners pay respects to tragically killed Jia

NRHNLM110609A1 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

NRHNLM110609A1 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

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THE GRIEVING husband of Jia Ashton has paid an emotional farewell to his murdered wife at a funeral ceremony in Somercotes.

Close to 200 mourners attended St Thomas’s Church, on Nottingham Road, to pay their respects to pretty Jia, 25, who was tragically killed earlier this year as she walked home from work.

NRHNLM110609A13 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

NRHNLM110609A13 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

The tributes were led by Jia’s husband Matthew after close family and friends arrived at the couple’s local church at noon on Thursday in three black limousines.

Matthew 26, from Springfield Crescent in the village, helped carry his wife’s white coffin, draped with red lilies, into the church.

The music teacher at Blidworth Oaks Primary School, Mansfield, was first to speak in an hour-long ceremony.

He said: “Five years ago I met an amazing and incomparable woman from 6,000 miles away and within three months we were engaged. In nine months we were married.

NRHNLM110609A3 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes. Jia's Husband Matthew lays his hand on the coffin as they walk towards the church.

NRHNLM110609A3 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes. Jia's Husband Matthew lays his hand on the coffin as they walk towards the church.

“We knew each other, we loved each other and we understood each other. In those five years we grew closer every day. We laughed too many times to count.”

A calm but emotional Matthew spoke of his wife’s determination and passion for life, telling the congregation how Thorntons worker Jia completed the famous Three Peaks Challenge with a sprained ankle last year.

But painfully he talked of her death, describing how he felt joy at having known her, but anger at how her life was taken away.

Mr Ashton performed Chopin’s Nocturne in C-minor on the piano before further readings by his mother, Susan Ashton, 59, and his father, John, 61.

NRHNLM110609A16 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

NRHNLM110609A16 - Jia Ashton's funeral at St. Thomas church in Somercotes.

Tributes were also paid at the ceremony by one of Jia’s colleagues at the research department of Thorntons, Anna Legg. In a short speech she talked of the talented 25-year-old’s infectious personality and love of food.

“It’s almost impossible to put into words or sum up how Jia touched the lives of people at Thorntons,” she added: “She joined our team as a graduate and left as one of the best colleagues any of us could have hoped for.”

After the service close family and friends travelled in a funeral procession to Markeaton Crematorium in Derby for a private cremation.

The body of the Warwick University graduate was found in the Sleetmoor Woods, 300 yards away from the path.

She went missing on March 10 and her body was found three days later.

David Simmonds, 21, from Heanor, has been charged with murder and has been remanded in custody until a trial date can be set.

To leave tributes to Jia go to www.ripleyandheanor news.co.uk.