Derby

David Simmonds jailed for Jia Ashton murder

A man has been jailed for life for murdering a woman as she walked home from work through woodland in Derbyshire.

Jia Ashton, 25, went missing in March after leaving work at Thornton's headquarters in Somercotes in March.

Her body was discovered in nearby Sleetmoor Woods three days later.

David Simmonds, 21, from Heanor, who had admitted murder, was told he would serve a minimum term of 27 years and 213 days, at Nottingham Crown Court.

Simmonds had originally denied murder, but changed his plea to guilty on 29 September.

'Broken heart'

Mrs Ashton's body was found hidden beneath logs and branches.

Police said the Warwick University economics graduate, from Somercotes, had suffered a ferocious attack, which caused the rupture of an atrium in her heart.

A letter from Mrs Ashton's mother Penny (Pan) Ning, which was read out to court, said "all the joy of my life died with my daughter".

Image caption Police caught Simmonds after taking DNA samples from homeless people

Mrs Ning, who has returned to her hometown in China, said she felt like "a ghost" whose life had been destroyed.

"David Simmonds … killed my hopes, my dreams and my future. All of my joy in life died with my darling daughter.

"He killed the children they (Jia and her husband Matthew) had planned to have together. The grandchildren I longed for but now will never hold.

"I have been in torment since the day my daughter died. My heart is broken and my pain is made worse because I cannot understand why David Simmonds did this and because I cannot understand - I cannot forgive."

A letter from Simmonds to his parents found by police in his belongings apologised for "ruining" their lives.

"I never meant to do it. I have regretted it since the second it happened. And now I am going to pay for my actions."

Simmonds, of Derby Road, was caught after a couple walking their dog saw a man of "possibly homeless appearance" in Sleetmoor Woods on the day Mrs Ashton disappeared.

Officers took fingerprints and DNA samples from people registered homeless in the area, one of whom was Simmonds.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites