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Women who covered for Katie Simpson’s killer walk free from court

Katie Simpson

Three women who admitted their roles in covering for man who murdered Co Armagh woman, Katie Simpson, have walked free from court.

Jonathan Creswell (36) previously of Briar Hill Gardens, Greysteel was charged with murdering the talented Tynan showjumper on August 3, 2020 and raping her at some time beforehand.

It was contended he attacked Katie – the younger sister of his partner Christina ‘Nina’ Simpson – in a jealous rage then staged a scene to make it appear she had attempted to take her own life.

His trial got underway on April 23, but ended 24 hours later after he was found dead

While four women, all associated with Creswell through the equestrian industry, were reported by PSNI for prosecution, a decision was taken to proceed against three.

The PPS has consistently refused to disclose why the fourth woman was not prosecuted insisting only Katie’s next-of-kin are permitted to seek a review of that decision, which they have not done.

The remaining three initially denied charges the but later admitted to their roles.

Hayley Robb (30) from Weavers Meadow, Banbridge withheld information knowing Creswell had assaulted Katie and perverted justice by cleaning blood in his home.

She and Jill Robinson (42) from Blackfort Road, Omagh jointly perverted justice by washing his clothes.

Rose de Montmorency-Wright (23) of Craigantlet Road, Newtownards withheld information knowing Creswell had assaulted Katie.

Prosecution counsel Sam Magee KC accepted the women did not know Creswell had murdered Katie rather their actions were to cover up the assault.

He described them as: “Protecting Creswell from being suspected of having a role in (Katie’s) death …They ascribed to and were complicit in his conspiracy of silence around critical facts, engaging in acts which misled those trying to uncover the truth.”

Katie sustained injuries all over her body including defensive wounds on her arms and hands, “tramline” bruising potentially inflicted with a rod-type implement, and “grip marks” on her thigh “indicative” of violent sexual assault.

While Katie was being assessed in hospital, Hayley, Christina and Jill were with Creswell who broke down stating: “Youse think I did this”.

Jill claimed all three women reassured him this wasn’t true because, “he doted on Katie.”

Throughout this interaction Jill maintained Christina said, “nothing of significance.”

Creswell divulged that he’d beaten Katie and intended to explain her significant injuries occurred from being trampled.

None reported this to police or medical staff.

On Creswell’s instruction, Hayley took his clothes, later meeting up with Jill, before they drove to an external launderette and washed them.

Jill returned the clothing to Creswell’s mother’s house that day and instructed Hayley not to tell anyone of this.

She accepted being in a continuous relationship with Creswell for 10 years – overlapping with Christina – which continued up to his arrest, however this was marked with abusive, controlling behaviour including physical attacks and continuously demanding to know her movements and checking her phone.

Hayley’s fear of Creswell worsened after she provided information to police.

While she was not immediately open with police she volunteered significant evidence and had turned “King’s Evidence”, becoming a prosecution witness.

Meanwhile, Jill confirmed she and Creswell were in a relationship years ago and remained friends.

She denied being controlled or afraid of him, nor did he ever assault her although her defence disputed this.

On the morning of the incident, she made her way to the hospital after Christina informed her Katie had hanged herself.

She denied Christina told her of Creswell assaulting Katie, nor could she recall any discussions of this including at the funeral.

Jill recalled informing Christina she had washed the clothes, although in hindsight accepted this was, “strange and suspicious”

She knew Hayley had cleaned blood and was aware of the “whole thing with Abi Lyle” who was Creswell’s previous victim and suffered starkly similar abuse to Katie.

She admitted deleting texts including some sent to Rose but insisted there was nothing sinister in this.

Her defence contended she too was a victim “subjected to violence at the hands of Creswell. Police told her there was evidence she was assaulted numerous times at Gillespie’s yard in Tynan. She denied this. That’s indicative of abuse and control.”

Rose, the youngest of the women living in Creswell’s home, described him as “a close friend, someone she looked up to. She wasn’t afraid of him and he had no hold over her. She was completely unaware of anything sexual between him and Katie.”

She claimed there were no issues when Creswell and Katie arrived home shortly before 12.30am on 3 August 2020.

Rose claimed Katie said she’d fallen from her horse and “rolled her eyes and laughed about it”, before going to bed.

Around 6.30am just after Christina left the house, Rose claimed Katie told her she wasn’t going to work.

While thinking this unusual, Rose didn’t suspect anything and headed to work in Creswell’s car.

She described receiving a call at work saying Katie had hanged herself and immediately tried to ring her and Creswell but neither answered.

On trying again, the call was answered and she “heard a female voice which she assumed was Katie. She then phoned Christina and said Katie was fine as she had heard her voice. Jill then informed her Katie had hanged herself.”

Rose opined Katie “planned her suicide having previously attempted this, but for the avoidance of doubt, it’s not accepted Katie ever attempted suicide,” said Mr Magee.

The defence contended Rose acted out of “false, fake and misconceived loyalties, against a background of control.”

He disputed her lack of cooperation “derailed the investigation”, but accepted it was hindered.

Judge Neil Rafferty KC said that Katie was, “Cruelly deprived of the bright future she undoubtedly had.”

The basis of plea in respect of the women was, “They acted on Creswell’s lie.”

The judge said “It somewhat unusual to deal with someone who is not before the court but I have found it almost impossible to set out the sentencing without considering Jonathan Creswell.”

He paid tribute to “courageous” Abigail Lyle, Creswell’s former partner who came forward to assist in Katie’s case and her evidence, “Paints the most compelling picture of subjecting her to coercive control, numerous physical assaults and strangulation. The foreshadowing of the death of Katie is chilling.”

Referring to the evidence of Katie’s best friend from the age of four, Chloe Scott, who was one of the first to raise concerns over the purported suicide, Judge Rafferty said: “She set out how Creswell effectively groomed and dominated Katie from around the age of 10, which continued through her teens.”

He continued: “Many witnessed Creswell’s verbally abusive and frankly vile comments to Katie, usually in a context of sexualised language. Creswell was a skilled and predatory abuser who simply viewed women to be used and abused for his own ends.”

The judge said the offending was serious and crossed the custody threshold and in relation to Hayley imposed a sentence of two years.

Turning to Jill, he imposed a sentence of 16 months with Rose receiving eight months.

Following consideration, however, Judge Rafferty decided the “using of them by Creswell was cynical and exploitive” and suspended all for two years.

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