How knife-wielding killer who cycled 17 miles to murder mum-of-three was caught by police

John Jessop has been jailed for life after murdering mum-of-three Clair Ablewhite Credit: Nottinghamshire Police

A knife-wielding killer cycled a 34-mile round trip on a mission to murder a mum of three he met on a dating site.

Clair Ablewhite was found dead in her pyjamas at her home in Hall Lane, Colston Bassett, in February last year.

The 47-year-old sustained serious stab wounds to the neck and chest after the brutal attack.

Police rapidly determined she was murdered and launched a probe later arresting John Jessop.

The 26-year-old killer has now been given a life sentence for murdering Ms Ablewhite.

Nottinghamshire Police initially found the killer had hardly left a trace of DNA at the scene, apart from blood-stained shoe prints inside the home.

Clair Ablewhite leaves behind three sons Credit: Nottinghamshire Police

Officers also discovered Clair's mobile phone was missing and there was no murder weapon in sight.

The crime was committed in a remote location - and authorities feared CCTV footage would be sparse.

Detective Inspector Mel Crutchley, the senior investigating officer in charge of the case, was determined to catch the killer.

How the killer who murdered mum-of-three in her own home was caught:

Hoping to find the killer, Det Insp Crutchley sent officers to get witness accounts from her family and friends.

Clair, married at aged 19, spent most of her life working on a farm she shared with her husband.

The couple had three boys together and when their marriage ended, she moved out of the family home and set up a new life for herself in Colston Bassett.

In January 2022, she started renting a small cottage in Hall Lane and was becoming a successful entrepreneur - setting up her own dog walking and dog boarding business.

Her friends and clients described her as “sociable, well-liked, who would stop and talk to anyone.”

However, her plans came to an abrupt end when she was murdered.

After conducting enquiries and eliminating some suspects, police had a list of more than 20 people they needed to speak to.

Investigators formed the opinion killer was known to Clair

DI Crutchley said: "I formed the opinion very early on in this investigation that Clair’s killer was known to her.

“There was no forced entry to the house, there was no evidence of a burglary, and Clair had only lived at the address for about six weeks.

“The nature of her injuries to the head and chest appeared very personal.”

First shot of the killer discovered on CCTV from a neighbour's camera as they work in France

The first shot of killer caught on Clair Ablewhite's neighbours CCTV Credit: Nottinghamshire Police

Police received a phone call from Clair's neighbour who was working in France.

He said had caught the killer on his CCTV camera.

The grainy image of a hooded man was the first shot of the killer John Jessop.

It was taken by an audio camera, which also captured the sound of the attack that ended her life.

It provided plenty of clues for detectives including Jessop's height, what he was wearing, including his Adidas trainers, which matched the same blooded footprints left in Clair’s kitchen.

DI Crutchley said: “On 1 March, I declared this male the suspect for the murder of Clair Ablewhite, despite not knowing his identity.

"I also formed the opinion that he had either walked to the scene or had arrived there by bike."

A team of officers then worked backwards to find this bike and its rider - and determine where they had travelled from.

Police had to work with gaps in CCTV coverage due to the remote location of where the attack took place.  

Luckily, his bike had one tell-tale sign – a faulty reflector which gave detectives a marker.

Clair's mobile phone is found in a stream

As police spent countless hours trawling through CCTV and dashcam footage, a search team made a crucial discovery – Clair’s mobile phone in a local stream.

It was severely water-damaged and officers worked at retrieving the information on it.

Dating website and WhatsApp messages discovered

Clair had been using a dating website and within WhatsApp messages, it became clear there was one man that had not come forward to assist police with their investigations.

This man was 26-year-old John Jessop from Newark.

DI Crutchley said: "He was identified as being known to Clair via social media and had been in an intimate relationship with her from September 2021 which had ended on 19 February 2022.”

“The contact ceased mainly due to concern over the age difference, and it was evident from the communication that he had been at her Colston Bassett address during the six weeks she had resided there.”

Jessop travelled 17 miles on his bike ride to murder her

In February 2022, Jessop travelled 17 miles from his home by bike to commit murder, before travelling 17 miles back home.

He had made one stop at a shop to buy a pasty, which he paid for in cash.

Footage from the shop picked up a front zip on his jacket.

CCTV footage showing John Jessop on the night of Ms Ablewhite's murder

It matched the same jacket on Clair’s next-door neighbour’s CCTV camera.

Jessop left his phone at home on the night of the murder, but data from his phone showed that he installed Google Maps.

It was subsequently deleted the day before Clair’s murder.

Relentless police work managed to build a CCTV picture of Jessop leaving his Newark address and travelling to Colston Bassett by bike.

All these factors led to Jessop's capture and conviction.

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