Horse trainer in court charged with murder of young woman

A man has appeared in court in Dungannon charged with the murder of a 21-year-old woman in Londonderry last year. Credit: UTV

A Co Londonderry man has been remanded in custody accused of murdering a 21-year-old woman.

Jonathan James Cresswell, 33, of Briar Hill Gardens, Greysteel, has been charged with the murder of Katie Simpson on 3 August 2020.

Appearing by videolink at Dungannon Magistrates' Court on Saturday morning, Cresswell confirmed he understood the charge against him.

He was described in court as a horse trainer.

A detective sergeant told the court on 3 August that Northern Ireland Ambulance Service had been called to a suspected hanging.

Ms Simpson was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital and transferred to intensive care.

The officer said bruising to one of her legs, both hands and one of her arms were noted. He added that doctors were concerned about her injuries and wanted further information.

He said Cresswell claimed Ms Simpson had fallen from a horse at a show and been trampled.

"Doctors found him vague in detail. Doctors and nurses found that she did not present as a hanging victim, the lack of ligature mark and other features that they would expect from a hanging victim weren't present," the officer told the court.

"A police investigation was subsequently launched."

Evidence includes from medics, mobile phones and witness statements.

The detective said witnesses described Ms Simpson as "being in great form" during a night out on 1 August, and had been looking forward to the horse riding season ahead and seeing her new boyfriend.

He described Ms Simpson as being in fear of Cresswell, and said he believes the accused was in control of her phone for a period before she died.

"He (Cresswell) has been in a controlling, coercive relationship with Katie since she was a young girl," he told the court.

The officer objected to bail on the grounds of risk of reoffending, risk of flight and risk of interference with witnesses and the police investigation.

A defence lawyer for Cresswell questioned the detective over the evidence, describing it as "essentially a circumstantial case".

On the police objections to bail, the lawyer told the court his client has two children and "numerous ties to this jurisdiction", adding: "He has every reason to remain in this jurisdiction.

"In addition to that, his family members are in a position to lodge a substantial cash surety. The defendant's partner would also be in a position to surrender his passport to the authorities."

He said the case would not be likely to be heard this year.

Cresswell was refused bail and will face Londonderry Magistrates' Court by videolink on 1 April.