Woman who decapitated friend sentenced live on TV in UK first

Jemma Mitchell will serve at least 34 years in jail for killing 67-year-old Mee Kuen Chong

Photo issued by the UK's Metropolitan Police of Jemma Mitchell. PA
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A 38-year-old who decapitated her friend has become the first woman in the UK to be sentenced live on TV.

Jemma Mitchell was told she will serve at least 34 years in jail for killing 67-year-old Mee Kuen Chong at her London home in June last year.

She hit Chong with a weapon before decapitating and dumping her body 200 miles away in Salcombe, Devon, two weeks later.

Photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Mee Kuen Chong. PA

Prosecutors said Mitchell had planned to murder the vulnerable divorcee and fake her will to inherit the bulk of her estate, which was worth more than £700,000 ($811,237).

She came up with the plan after Chong, who was known as Deborah, backed out of her offer to pay £200,000 for repairs to Mitchell's £4 million dilapidated family home, jurors were told.

The trained osteopath, who had boasted online of her award-winning skill in human dissection, denied having anything to do with Chong's death, but declined to give evidence at her trial.

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

Mitchell stood impassively in the dock as she was found guilty of murder while Chong's family in Malaysia watched the verdict via a video link.

Judge Richard Marks KC was broadcast handing down his sentence to Mitchell at the Old Bailey on Friday.

It is only the second time cameras have been allowed into an English criminal crown court to record a sentencing, and the first in a murder case in which the accused is a woman.

The judge said it was a particularly shocking murder for gain, perpetrated by an “extremely devious” person.

Screen grab of Judge Richard Marks KC during a live broadcast from the Old Bailey, London, sentencing Jemma Mitchell. PA video

He told Mitchell: “There is the chilling aspect of what you did to and with her body after you killed her.

“You have shown absolutely no remorse and it appears you are in complete denial as to what you did, notwithstanding what in my judgment amounted to overwhelming evidence against you.

“The enormity of your crime is profoundly shocking, even more so given your apparent religious devotion and the fact that Chong was a good friend to you and had shown you great kindness.”

During the trial, jurors viewed CCTV footage of Mitchell arriving at Chong's home carrying a large blue suitcase on the morning of June 11 last year.

More than four hours later, she emerged from the property in Wembley, north-west London, with the suitcase appearing bulkier and heavier.

She also had with her a smaller bag full of Ms Chong's financial documents, which were later recovered from Mitchell's home.

After Chong was reported missing, Mitchell claimed she had gone to visit family friends “somewhere close to the ocean” as she was feeling “depressed”.

In reality, Mitchell had decapitated Chong and stored her remains in the garden of the house she shared with her retired mother in Willesden, north-west London, the prosecution suggested.

On June 26 last year, she stowed the body inside the suitcase in the boot of a hire car and drove to Devon.

A screen grab taken from CCTV issued by Metropolitan Police of Jemma Mitchell on Chaplin Road, north west London dragging a blue suitcase. PA video

Ms Chong's headless body was found by holidaymakers beside a woodland footpath near the picturesque town of Salcombe the next day.

Following a police search of the area, her head was recovered a few metres away from the body.

A postmortem examination found skull fractures which could have been from a blow to the head and broken ribs, thought to have been caused by the body being stuffed into the suitcase.

A search of Mitchell's home uncovered Chong's faked will and personal papers.

The blue suitcase had been stored on the roof of a neighbour's shed.

Although no forensic evidence was recovered from the suitcase, Chong's DNA was identified on a bloodstained tea towel in a pocket.

Jurors heard that Chong had suffered from schizophrenia and was referred for help after writing letters to the Prince of Wales at the time and Boris Johnson.

Mitchell had grown up in Australia, where her mother worked for the British Foreign Office and had set up an osteopathy business there before returning to the UK in 2015.

On her website, she had claimed she was “attuned to subjects in neuroanatomy, genetics and dissection of human cadavers”.

Following her conviction, Detective Chief Inspector Jim Eastwood, who led the investigation, said: “Mitchell has never accepted responsibility for Deborah'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.”

Updated: October 28, 2022, 12:14 PM