Devious | 

‘Devout Christian’ sentenced to 34 years after decapitating friend in row over money

‘The enormity of your crime is profoundly shocking, even more so given your apparent religious devotion’

Jemma Mitchell

Mee Kuen Chong (67) also known as Deborah

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

A “devout Christian” who decapitated her friend and dumped her body in woodlands after a row over money has been sentenced to 34 years for murder.

Jemma Mitchell (38) who killed Mee Kuen Chong (67) also known as Deborah, became the first woman in the UK to be sentenced live on television after rules were changed to allow cameras into courtrooms.

Ms Chong's body had been found in woodland in Salcombe by a holidaymaker, and her head was discovered nearby, a few days after Mitchell killed her at her London home 200 miles away in June 2021

Describing her as "extremely devious", Judge Richard Marks KC sentenced her on Friday at the Old Bailey, saying: "You have shown absolutely no remorse.

"It appears you are in complete denial as to what you did, despite the overwhelming evidence against you.

"The enormity of your crime is profoundly shocking, even more so given your apparent religious devotion as well as the fact that Deborah Chong was a good friend to you and had shown you good kindness," he said.

The prosecution claimed Mitchell hatched a plan to murder the vulnerable widow after befriending her through a church group.

Judge Marks said Mitchell and her mother were living in a house in Willesden, northwest London, and had been cheated out of most of the £230,000 they paid two builders to add another floor to the property.

"This proved to be your undoing," he said.

Mee Kuen Chong (67) also known as Deborah

When Ms Chong backed out of giving her £200,000 to pay for repairs to her rundown £4 million home, Mitchell killed her and forged a will to inherit the bulk of her estate - worth more than £700,000.

Mitchell denied having anything to do with her death and declined to give evidence during the trial.

However, jurors were shown CCTV footage of Mitchell arriving at Ms Chong's home in Wembley, northwest London, on the morning of 11 June last year carrying a large blue suitcase

She emerged from the property more than five hours later, with the suitcase appearing bulkier and heavier.

Judge Marks said: "That large suitcase contained Deborah Chong's body. I have no doubt that you killed her when inside her house."

After Ms Chong's lodger reported her missing, Mitchell claimed she had gone to visit family friends "somewhere close to the ocean".

The prosecution said Mitchell stored her remains in the garden of the house she shared with her retired mother until 26 June when she put the suitcase in a car she had hired and drove down to Devon.

On her way to Salcombe, Mitchell was forced to drive into a service station after the car blew a tyre. A repairman who changed the wheel described an "odd musty smell" inside the vehicle, jurors heard.

After the delay, she dumped her body and her head near Bennett Road in Salcombe.

Ms Chong's headless corpse was found by holidaymakers the next day. Her skull was recovered a few metres away from the body following a police search.

The pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Ms Chong was unable to ascertain the cause of death because of the level of decomposition, but could determine a fracture to her skull.

The injury was likely to have been caused by being hit with a weapon and Ms Chong's ribs probably broke when Mitchell put her into a suitcase, the court previously heard.

The court heard Mitchell and Ms Chong, who met through church, were both "devout Christians", the judge added.

The judge said Ms Chong had a "serious history of mental illness", was on anti-psychotic medication and was "particularly vulnerable, both mentally as well as physically" before she died.

He also said as part of her degree in human sciences from King's College London, Mitchell "was taught anatomy" and "had experience in the dissection of human bodies".

"That no doubt stood you in good stead," he said.

Ms Chong's sister Amy Chong joined the hearing by video link from Malaysia and provided a victim impact statement to be read by the prosecution.

In it she said she suffers sleepless nights and was "shocked and saddened" she had to go through "such a horrifying ordeal and tragic" death.

"We still do not understand how she died. Did she suffer? This mystery will haunt me forever," she said.

Before proceedings began, Mitchell blew kisses to her mother with whom she shared the £4m family home in north-west London, who was sitting in the public gallery.

Following her conviction, Det Ch Insp Jim Eastwood said: "Mitchell has never accepted responsibility for Ms Chong's murder so there are questions which remain unanswered.

"Why she kept her body for a fortnight, why she decapitated her, why she deposited her remains in Salcombe.

"What we do know is that these were evil acts carried out by an evil woman and the only motive clearly was one of financial gain."

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