Derry Crown Court: Three women given suspended sentences for cover-ups in Katie Simpson case

Derry Crown Court: Three women given suspended sentences for cover-ups in Katie Simpson case

Northern Ireland’s Crown Court of Derry has given three women suspended sentences for perverting the course of justice and withholding information in respect of the circumstances surrounding showjumper Katie Simpson’s death.

Delivering judgment for the Crown Court of Derry, HHJ Neil Rafferty KC opined: “Mr Creswell himself created a fiction, pretending to others he had found Katie, hanging in a stairwell from a strap, claiming she had taken her own life.

“These defendants did not know the truth about how she had met her death. However, they ascribed to and were complicit in his conspiracy of silence with regards to a number of critical facts and in Robb and Robinson’s case engaged in positive acts, the result of which was to mislead those trying to get to the truth of what had happened to Katie Simpson.”


The prosecution contended that on 3 August 2020, an incident occurred in which Ms Katie Simpson was assaulted by Mr Jonathan Creswell, following which Mr Creswell disposed of and interfered with evidence in order to mislead the investigation into her subsequent death, staging a suicide attempt on her part. Ms Simpson died subsequently from her injuries. Mr Creswell denied the allegations.

Prior to the conclusion of the victim’s murder trial, Mr Creswell was found dead. The defendants, being three women who assisted Mr Creswell following the assault, plead guilty in advance of the trial to offences of withholding information contrary to the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 and perverting the course of justice contrary to common law.

The defendants came before HHJ Rafferty KC for sentencing.

The Crown Court

Having considered the victim impact statements of Ms Simpson’s friends and family, the court observed that all three defendants did not “know or believe” that Mr Creswell had murdered the deceased, and were aware that the police would be investigating Ms Simpson’s murder and that Mr Creswell did not want the police to find out about the assault in the course of their investigation.

In respect of Ms Hayley Robb, the court noted inter alia that she accepted that he had directed her to clean blood at his home and to wash his clothes. The court observed that Ms Robb eventually made admissions in respect of her actions. The court also considered 30-year-old Ms Robb’s personal circumstances, stating she had no criminal record, and was academically gifted but had lost all interest in her studies after she began to work for Mr Creswell at his horse yard, following which she was abused and controlled by him.

Turning to Ms Jill Robinson, the court considered that she accepted that she had washed his clothes with Ms Robb, in respect of which she made admissions at interview. The court observed that 42-year-old Ms Robinson likewise had no criminal record other than a speeding fine and was also academically gifted, similarly experiencing physical violence at the hands of Mr Creswell after they became involved in a relationship.

As to 23-year-old Ms Rose De Montmorency-Wright, the court recounted that she had failed without reasonable excuse to give information to the police within a reasonable time, eventually providing an account to them but failing to recall certain aspects of her interactions with Mr Creswell, in particular, telephone calls on the morning of 3 August 2020. HHJ Rafferty KC considered that Ms De Montmorency-Wright met Mr Creswell at 16 when she began unpaid work at his family’s yard, later moving into Mr Creswell’s house, and that she had no criminal record.

HHJ Rafferty KC remarked: “The central theme of all three basis of plea documents it that all three defendants acted upon Creswell’s lie that he had ‘given Katie a hiding’ the night before he claimed to have found her and that she had attempted suicide. That is to say, the basis upon which I must sentence all three is that they did not know or believe that Creswell had in reality murdered Katie Simpson.”

Noting that it was unusual to consider the actions of someone not before the court at sentencing, the judge “found it almost impossible to analyse and assess the culpability of these three defendants without setting out and assessing the agency of Jonathon Creswell in their offences. There is a significant amount of information which would have been evidence in the trial, but which was not reached because of his death.”

The court considered that the prosecution had set out a significant number of witnesses who would have given evidence about Mr Creswell’s treatment of young women, highlighting in particular that “one courageous young woman, Abigail Lyle” was prepared to waive her anonymity and to give evidence, providing a statement which described how she was subjected to coercive control by Mr Creswell and was subjected to physical assaults and strangulation.

At that juncture, the judge commented that “the foreshadowing of the death of Katie Simpson is chilling. Statistically, a male who engages in an attack involving non-fatal strangulation is 800 per cent more likely to kill a partner in that relationship.”

The court also considered the statements of other witnesses who described how Mr Creswell groomed and dominated Ms Simpson from 10 years of age, creating “an irresistible conclusion that Jonathon Creswell was a skilled and predatory abuser who regarded women under his influence as simply there to be used and abused for his own ends including his sexual gratification”.

The court considered the seriousness of the offence of perverting the course of justice, remarking: “The courts have made it clear that, whilst the offence type will cover many scenarios, those who engage in this offence do so to defeat the aims of public justice. It is, in terms, a direct affront to the administration of justice and in all but exceptional cases will require deterrent sentences.” HHJ Rafferty KC found the principles emerging from the NI Court of Appeal in R v McAllister, O’Hara & Pearson [2018] NICA 45 to be relevant despite the different factual context of that case.

Turning to the offence of withholding information and likewise finding same to be a serious offence with a tendency to impede the administration of justice, the court finding guidance in the judgment of R v Sikorskas [2018] NICC 13 as to the sentence to be administered.

In mitigation, the court was satisfied that Ms Robb’s actions in withholding information and perverting the course of justice would have attracted a three-year custodial sentence, if not for her guilty pleas which although were not tendered at the first opportunity, were of value to the prosecution. The court applied R v Maughan [2022] UKSC 13 to reduce Ms Robb’s sentence by one-third.

In respect of Ms Robinson, the judge remarked that he would have imposed a custodial sentence of two years for perverting the course of justice, but due to her guilty plea prior to trial and the value of same, a one-third reduction was also applied. The court applied the same reduction to Ms De Montmorency-Wright’s sentence for withholding information, imposing a custodial sentence of eight months.

Having regard to the principles in R v Gill & Others [2023] NICC 21, HHJ Rafferty KC considered: “All three defendants have clear criminal records; I am entirely satisfied that but for the agency and control of Jonathon Creswell that none of them would ever have stood in a dock; the using of them by Creswell was cynical and exploitative — for example, I am entirely satisfied, and, indeed, it was the prosecution case, that the telephone call to Hayley Robb on the morning of Katie’s death was to ensure that Creswell could use her as a witness to him ‘finding’ Katie’s body.”


Accordingly, the court suspended each sentence for two years.

The King v Robb, Robinson and De Monmorency-Wright [2024] NICC 16

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