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Jury sworn in for NI showjumper murder trial

A jury has been sworn in ahead of trial in the case of the alleged rape and murder of 21-year-old showjumper Katie Simpson almost four years ago.

Jonathan Creswell, aged 36, previously of Briar Hill Gardens, Greysteel, but now with an address which cannot be published, is charged with murdering the talented showjumper on 3 August 2020 and raping her at some time beforehand.

It is contended he attacked Ms Simpson, who was the younger sister of his partner, in an alleged jealous rage then staged a scene to make it appear she had attempted to take her own life.

He denies all charges.

Three women, who are all connected to Mr Creswell through the equestrian industry, initially denied charges relating to various actions following Ms Simpson’s death, but all later changed their plea.

The first to switch position was Hayley Robb, aged 30, from Weavers Meadow, Banbridge who changed plea in December.

She admitted withholding information between 2 August 2020 and 26 June 2021, while knowing Ms Simpson had sustained injuries.

Robb further admitted perverting the course of justice by cleaning blood in Creswell’s home on 3 August 2020 as well as washing his clothes at a laundrette.

Then in January the other two women also changed their pleas to guilty.

Jill Robinson, aged 42, from Blackfort Road, Omagh admitted perverting the course of justice by washing Creswell’s along with Robb.

Rose de Montmorency-Wright, aged 22, of Craigantlet Road, Newtownards admitted withholding information between 9 October 2020 and 13 October 2021 knowing Creswell had allegedly assaulted Katie and an investigation was underway into her death.

Prosecution counsel have confirmed there is an “agreed basis of plea” in respect of the women and are no longer required to attend court.

They remain on bail and will be sentenced when the trial concludes.

This left Creswell to appear alone in the dock of Derry Crown Court where his trial got underway today.

After being sworn, Judge Neil Rafferty KC sent the jury home for the day while a number of preliminary legal matters are addressed.

It was originally expected to last up to eight weeks but that may now reduce to between four to six weeks.

It was previously disclosed after Creswell claimed to have left the house in which they resided in Derry on the morning in question and having returned a short time later discovered Katie unresposive and having attempted to take her own life.

He says he rescued her and placed her – dressed only in a polo shirt and underwear – into her own car and set out for the hospital, although was met by an ambulance on the way, who took over Ms Simpson’s care.

Altnagelvin Hospital staff were concerned by Ms Simpson’s presentation noting multiple injuries including intimate bleeding and extensive bruising to her lower right leg, inner thigh and both hands.

Mr Creswell was “vague in detail”, claiming Ms Simpson fell from a horse the previous day, before being trampled.

She passed away just under a week later, having never regained consciousness.

A post mortem found tramline injuries on her limbs, “consistent with being struck with a rod-type implement.”

An initial police investigation declined to pursue any criminal enquiries, repeatedly dismissing concerns brought directly to them over Katie’s death.

It would be seven months before Mr Creswell was finally arrested after sustained efforts by Ms Simpsons friends prompted a high-level review into the original PSNI decision.

A new team took over and a murder inquiry was launched.

The PSNI have consistently refused to provide the date the case became a murder inquiry however a Freedom of Information request revealed this to be 21 January 2021 – over five months after Ms Simpson’s death.

When Mr Creswell first appeared in court back in March 2021 Investigating Officer Detective Sergeant James Brannigan said police believe he “controlled and coerced Katie since she was a child of 9 or 10”, first encountering her through his long-term relationship with her eldest sister, Christina Simpson.

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