London, England: On Friday, October 28, 38-year-old Jemma Mitchell was sentenced to a minimum of 34 years in prison after being found guilty of the murder of 67-year-old Mee "Deborah" Kuen Chong.
According to information presented in court, the two women met through a church group and Mitchell became a spiritual healer for Deborah.
The BBC reports that Deborah had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and struggled with her mental health.
In 2021 Mitchell was in the process of renovating her home and disclosed to Deborah that she was running out of finances to cover the project. The court was told that Deborah had offered Mitchell approximately $230,000 to complete the work but then later changed her mind.
On June 10, 2021 Mitchell was seen on security cameras arriving at Deborah's residence with a large blue suitcase.
She was observed on cameras leaving Deborah's home four hours later pulling two suitcases. Prosecutors pointed to Mitchell's actions in handing the suitcases to allege that they contained something weighty.
Mitchell is believed to have taken Deborah's remains back to her residence for two weeks before renting a vehicle and taking them to Salcombe, a coastal town approximately 250 miles away, where she dumped them.
In the interim, Mitchell filed a missing persons report concerning Deborah and even reached out to the individual that was living with her to state that Deborah had left to live with family for a period of time in order to clear her mind. Mitchell went so far as to tell Deborah's roommate that she was staying "somewhere close to the ocean."
On June 27, 2021, Deborah's headless remains were located near a forgotten footpath. Further search conducted by police recovered Deborah's severed head.
Due to the state of decomposition identification of the remains took some time, but the medical examination determined that she had suffered a skull fracture and that her head had not been removed by animals but rather, someone that knew what they were doing.
Prosecutors pointed to a website where Mitchell disclosed that she had a degree in osteopathy and had experience dissecting human remains.
Mitchell is additionally said to have falsified a will attributed to Deborah which would have seen 95% of her estate passing to Mitchell and her mother.
Following Mitchell's conviction, detective Jim Eastwood acknowledged that there were many questions which remained unanswered. "What we do know," he said, "is that these were evil acts carried out by an evil woman and the only motive clearly was one of financial gain."
Mitchell's mother, Hillary Collard, spoke with ITV News following her sentencing calling the event "profoundly shocking."
Despite Judge Richard Marks KC citing the "overwhelming evidence" presented during the trial as the reason for conviction, Hillary claimed her daughter was innocent.
"As far as I'm concerned she did not do it. She's innocent," she said. "There's absolutely no question about it and I know she would not do such a thing. I'm absolutely baffled."