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Horse trainer goes on trial for alleged rape and murder of Co Armagh woman Katie Simpson

Jonathan Creswell

A horse trainer has gone on trial for the alleged rape and murder of Armagh showjumper Katie Simpson in what was believed to be jealous rage almost four years ago.

Jonathan Creswell (36) previously of Briar Hill Gardens, Greysteel but now with an address which cannot be published, is charged with murdering Katie – who died in hospital on August 9, 2020 – following an incident in the home he shared with her sister, Christina ‘Nina’ Simpson with whom he was in a longterm relationship.

During that incident, which allegedly occurred just under a week beforehand on August 3, 2020, Creswell is further accused of raping Katie.

He denies all charges.

The trial got underway today (Tuesday) at Coleraine Crown Court where prospection counsel Sam Magee KC set out the circumstances of the case which began as a suspected suicide attempt but became a murder inquiry.

He said: “It is the prosecution case the defendant raped Katie. He murdered her. He made efforts to cover up what he had done by trying to make her death look like a suicide. In the hours leading up to death he was with Katie. He was the last person to see her alive. At that time, he was the only person with Katie, or certainly the only adult.”

The prosecution say “it was a calculating and deceitful episode. He strangled her and created a fiction, pretending to others that he found Katie hanging in a stairwell. He pretended to medical staff that she had taken her own life. He pretended to be innocent having discovered the lifeless body of this unfortunate individual, or whose life was ebbing away. We say he was the individual who did an act of violent rage which took her life at the age of just 21.”

Following this, Mr Magee said: “The defendant then lied, and lied and lied to cover his tracks and mislead those trying to get to the bottom of what happened. We must prove the defendant caused Katie’s death and when he did so, he intended to kill her or cause her really serious harm.”

It was pointed out Creswell may say “he was just an innocent party and he was the Good Samaritan having found Katie who had attempted to take her own life. He may say he took medical attention to save her. But the prosecution say that version of events if maintained is untrue. If having heard all the evidence and in fact the defendant assaulted Katie in a manner that caused her to be fatally injured before he set about covering it up, we say you will convict him of murder, but only if you are sure”.

Mr Magee said by the time of Katie’s death she was in the very early stages of a new relationship with another man named Shane McCloskey and she was terrified of Creswell discovering this.

When this man wanted to see more of Katie she said she would have to ask Creswell.

The court heard Katie was involved in the equestrian industry and she and her sister Christina first encountered Creswell when he was working as a jockey at Darton Ree Stables in Tynan, County Armagh.

After a time Christina and Creswell “became an item” working in other stables and going on to have two children together.

Katie began working with them but one witness had realised Creswell could be “difficult with women”.

The witness felt Katie, “seemed to be under his spell …but he would shout and be bad-tempered with her. She seemed fearful of him. The prosecution say not only was she fearful, she had every reason to be given her unfortunate fate”.

Katie spent the night with Mr McCloskey in her mother’s home in Middletown and both left early the next day.

Referring to phone analysis Mr Magee said while Katie appeared to be happy and in good form “the same could not be said of the defendant”.

Shortly before 6am he called Katie by Snapchat.

At around 6.15am he messaged: “You reply to my Snap right f**ing now.”

Mr Magee said: “You have to ask, why was he so irate? What was in that Snap message that made him send such a foul and aggressive text?”

By 8,30am Creswell had messaged Katie asking when she had seen Mr McCloskey and as the day wore on both became increasingly concerned about discovering they had been together.

The prosecution say Katie travelled to Lurgan where she was scheduled to showjump at a competition and Creswell and a number of others were to be there.

It is believed a woman named Easkey Houston observed Mr McCloskey driving home early the morning after he spent the night with Katie.

Ms Houston mentioned this to another woman in the equestrian industry named Stacey Watling, both of whom knew Mr McCloskey.

In turn Ms Watling contacted Creswell and informed him Mr McCloskey had been seen earlier and this appeared to cause first suspicion, then rage.

Creswell began messaging Katie demanding to know where she was, where she spent the previous night and when she last saw Mr McCloskey.

This unnerved Katie who messaged Mr McCloskey and the communication indicated both were extremely worried.

Katie began deleting her messages to Mr McCloskey and these would only be discovered by police when his phone was seized after the murder investigation stated.

On arrival at the equestrian event in Lurgan it is believed Creswell confronted Katie and took control of her phone.

Mr McCloskey made a number of attempts to contact Katie throughout the day but these went unanswered.

After the competition Creswell, still in control of Katie’s phone, allegedly made her travel with him in the horse lorry.

They called at two stable yards – one in Omagh area and the other in Strabane – dropping off horses before transferring to Creswell’s car.

Cell-site analysis showed Katie and Creswell’s phones crossed the border into County Lifford, remaining  there for a time then return to another area of Derry.

Mr McCloskey was continuing to try to contact Katie and began to wonder if he’d done something wrong.

Having heard nothing at all he sent a text stating he had not driven for an hour-and-a-half the previous night just to have sex with Katie, that he wasn’t like that and he really wanted the relationship to work.

“And that is when the defendant knew what happened,” contended Mr Magee.

Matters moved to the following morning and the jury was shown CCTV footage of Christina Simpson driving away from the house around 6am, shortly afterwards followed in a different car by anther woman who was also staying in the house, Rose de Montmorency-Wright.

Shortly before 8am Creswell drove Katie’s car with his two children onboard to his mother’s home in Greysteel.

During the return trip he was talking on the phone to a woman called Hayley Robb who was driving to meet him.

She noticed he seemed eager to keep talking on the phone which she found strange as they would be meeting in a short time.

While talking Creswell had arrived hone and entered the house and screamed, “Katie’s hanging. Call an ambulance.”

Mr Magee said while a witness confirmed hearing a scream around this time the prosecution say Creswell was feigning shock.

Ms Robb’s 999 call was played to the court in which she set out Creswell’s address and phone number.

The call handler made a number of attempts to ring Creswell who by this time claimed to have cut Katie down “dragged” her to her car, placed her in the front passenger seat and set off for Altnagelvin Hospital.

The call handler tells him to pull over and start CPR at once.

The jury heard Creswell counting out CPR compressions with the call handler, describing and frantically saying, “Nothing’s happening. I think I’m hurting her.”

However Mr Magee told the jury at one point when Creswell was counting out compressions allegedly using in both hands, Katie’s phone which he had retained, had been activated and switched to flight mode.

Paramedics arrived and took over, managing to re-start Katie’s heart and stabilise her.

They observed she was wearing on underwear on her lower body an what would later transpire to be her showjumping shirt from the previous day.

Police had also arrived and instructed Creswell to follow the ambulance to the hospital.

While he initially did, Creswell swung round and returned to his house, arriving simultaneously with Ms Robb.

While she was not entirely forthcoming initially with police she later explained she entered the house with Creswell who stripped off his clothes and stated he was taking a cold shower.

“Mr Robb states the defendant said this was because he not want police to know he had taken a shower.,” said Mr Magee.

Creswell also told Mrs Robb to put the clothes he removed into a bag.

As he climbed the stairs he spotted blood on the banister and instructed Ms Robb to clean it, which she admitted she did.

The pair then travelled to the hospital in Ms Robb’s car where they were met by police and spoken to on bodyworn camera.

Creswell was noted to be wearing different clothes from the footage at the roadside.

He described Katie as his “wee sister-in-law” and “a great girl, a really hard worker” dismissing any suggestion she had been suicidal or shown any indications of being depressed.

When asked if she had a partner, he said “No, no-one.”

Creswell claimed Katie had said she was very tired over the previous weeks and he found she had tablets with caffeine in them, which he took from her.

“I told her, if you’re tired Katie, you rest, Don’t be taking stuff like that,” he told the police officer.

He claimed when  leaving to take the children to his mother’s that morning, his three-year-old had called out “Bye bye Katie” and she had responded.

Mr Magee said, “Was this to show he and his young child had spoken to Katie before they left, to prove she was still alive at that point?”

The trial continues.

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