(CP) A 38-year-old woman has been convicted in the beheading of a 67-year-old friend she had met at a church group, becoming the first woman to be sentenced to life in prison live on television in England.
Jemma Mitchell, a former osteopath, assaulted Mee Keun Chong last June with a blunt object at the woman's home in northwest London before removing the victim's head. Chong was last seen alive in June 2021.
Mitchell was found guilty during a hearing on Thursday and sentenced on Friday to life imprisonment with a minimum of 34 years before she becomes eligible for parole.
The court was told how Mitchell met Chong, also known as Deborah, through a church group and were on friendly terms. Mitchell also served as a spiritual healer for Chong.
According to the Metropolitan Police, Mitchell and her mother were in the process of renovating their home but needed funding to finish the job.
Chong initially agreed to help fund the project, but changed her mind days before she went missing. The decision reportedly led to the friends falling out.
On the morning of June 11, 2021, investigators say Mitchell went to Chong's home in Wembley, where it was believed Mitchell carried out the murder. Mitchell was seen on surveillance footage leaving with two large, wheeled suitcases that appeared to be heavy. Authorities say she got a cab back to her home and likely kept the body on the property for about two weeks before driving to the seaside town of Salcombe in Devon over 200 miles away on June 26 to dump Chong's remains.
Police say Chong made a false report via email to a missing-persons charity and claimed that Chong went to spend time with her family for a year "somewhere close to the ocean."
Chong's body was discovered on June 27, with her head removed. Because of decomposition, authorities say the body was not identifiable for several days. Examiners ruled out the possibility that Chong's head was removed by animal activity. Police say Mitchell, with a degree in osteopathy and experience in human dissection, most likely removed Chong's head.
Investigators claim Mitchell also forged a copy of Chong's will, ensuring "95% of the estate was left in her name."
"This was found at Mitchell's property following her arrest, along with various possessions belonging to Deborah," a statement from the Metropolitan Police reads.
Mitchell, who received a first-class degree in human sciences from King's College London, had been unemployed for a long time and lived with her retired mother, The Times reports.
According to the newspaper, Chong was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and told Mitchell's mother she could give money for building a new floor on their home if they allowed the house to be used for "Christian worship."
After Chong changed her mind, prosecutors said Mitchell hit Chong in the head with a weapon, and two weeks later, she drove miles away to the seaside town and threw Chong's remains in the woods.
"Deborah's death was a shock to us all," the victim's sister said in a statement to the court. "I find it difficult to comprehend. It saddened me to think she had to go through this horrifying ordeal and tragic death," she said. "For the first month after Deborah's death I didn't leave my room; I found it impossible to take myself out."
Detective Jim Eastwood told the media that Mitchell refused to accept responsibility for the murder, which leaves many questions unanswered.
"Why she kept her body for a fortnight? Why she decapitated her? Why she deposited her remains in Salcombe?" he asked. "What we do know is that these were evil acts carried out by an evil woman and the only motive clearly was one of financial gain."