Horse trainer accused of murdering showjumper found dead ahead of second day of trial

Prosecution alleged Jonathan James Cresswell (36), from Greysteel, Co Derry, killed Katie Simpson (21) due to jealousy over her new relationship

The trial of a horse trainer accused of raping and murdering 21-year-old showjumper Katie Simpson ended abruptly on Wednesday after the defendant was found dead at his home.

Jonathan James Creswell, 36, of Briar Hill Gardens in Greysteel, Co Derry, was charged with the rape and murder of Ms Simpson.

The equestrian was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry following an incident in Gortnessy Meadows, Lettershandoney, on August 3rd, 2020. She never regained consciousness and died six days later.

On the first day of evidence on Tuesday, the prosecution barrister told the court Creswell “strangled and killed” Ms Simpson in “pure rage and jealousy” after he discovered she was in a relationship with someone else.


He then sought to “cover up” what he had done by making it appear like a suicide, he said.

For the eight women and four men on the jury, this was the opening day of what they expected would be a lengthy and complex case, with the trial expected to last between four and six weeks.

At an earlier hearing last year, a preliminary inquiry was delayed because of the extent of the material in this “complicated” case – more than 1,800 pages – and more time was needed to read them.

When they were sworn in at Londonderry Crown Court sitting in Coleraine on Monday, the jury of eight women and four men was told there could be in excess of 60 witnesses for the prosecution, and three equestrian centres would feature in the proceedings – one in Donegal, and two in Northern Ireland.

The court was told Ms Simpson, who was originally from Tynan, near Middletown in Co Armagh, had been living in Donegal, near the Derry border.

Creswell was accused of Ms Simpson’s murder on August 9th 2020, and of rape on a date between August 2 and August 4th 2020.

Opening the case against Creswell on Tuesday, counsel for the prosecution Sam Magee KC outlined the argument he would make to the jury and said the prosecution would maintain Creswell had “strangled and killed” Ms Simpson.

He said Ms Simpson and Creswell had previously had sexual relations, and the prosecution would argue Creswell carried out the crime “out of jealousy” after he discovered the deceased had ‘embarked on a sexual relationship’ with someone else.

Mr Magee KC said Creswell then sought to “cover up” the murder of Ms Simpson by making it appear like a suicide.

He said Cresswell was the last person to see Ms Simpson alive, and the prosecution would maintain he covered up her murder by making it appear the deceased woman had been found hanging in a stairwell.

The barrister said Creswell pretended he was “the unfortunate individual” who had discovered her body.

Continuing to outline the case against the defendant, Mr Magee continued that the prosecution would maintain Creswell was the individual who had taken the young showjumper’s life in “a violent rage.”

The jury was told the deceased was in the early stages of a new relationship and was “terrified” Creswell would find out about her new partner.

The prosecution also outlined to the jury details of a series of text messages in which Ms Simpson worried that if Creswell discovered her new relationship “he will go crazy.”

The jury was given telephone logs relating to messages between the defendant, the deceased and her new boyfriend.

Mr Magee KC said Ms Simpson deleted messages from her phone so Creswell would not see them.

He told the court that on the evening after Ms Simpson had spent the night with her new partner the couple was worried another member of the equestrian set had seen him and told Creswell.

The prosecutor said that both Ms Simpson and her boyfriend were “becoming increasingly concerned” Creswell would find out they had been together.

Ms Simpson had “every reason to worry,” the barrister added.

The jury then heard that that later on that evening Ms Simpson’s new partner had sent her a series of text messages, which went unanswered.

Phone evidence put Creswell along with Ms Simpson after she had taken part in a horse show.

Mr Magee KC said a “pivotal message” was sent by her new partner, in which he said he had not driven an hour and a half “just to sleep with you.”

He said this message “confirmed Jonathan Creswell’s worst fears,” that Ms Simpson had slept with another man along with the deceased after Katie Simpson had taken part in a horse show.

He said that by this stage, Creswell had control of Ms Simpson’s phone. After he saw the message, “Katie Simpson’s fate was sealed,” the barrister said.

He told the jury Creswell killed her in “pure rage and jealousy.”

The trial was adjourned and was due to resume on Wednesday morning.

However, the trial ended that morning, when the prosecution barrister, Mr Magee KC, told the court “Jonathan Creswell was found deceased at his home this morning.”

A Detective Chief Inspector was called to the witness box and said he had received information that a man had been found dead at 9am that morning.

“A family member confirmed it was Mr Jonathan Creswell,” he said.

The detective also said the death was not suspicious and the corner had been informed.

Judge Neil Rafferty KC told the jury that the trial process had concluded and discharged them.

He said three co-accused who had pleaded guilty prior to the beginning of the trial would have their sentencing brought forward.

They are Rose De Montgomery-Wright (22) of Craigantlet Road in Newtownards, who is due to be sentenced for withholding information regarding the case on dates between August 9th and August 13th 2020, Jill Robinson (41) of Blackfort Road in Omagh, who admitted perverting the course of justice on August 3rd, 2020, and a third woman who has been granted an interim anonymity order.

She faces four charges of withholding information between August 2nd 2020 and June 26th 2021 and one charge of perverting the course of justice on August 3rd 2020.

Judge Rafferty adjourned the case until May 10th.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said its officers “attended the sudden death of a man at an address in the Waterside area of Derry/Londonderry this morning, April 24th.

“The death is not being treated as suspicious.”