EXCLUSIVE: Taxi driver who unwittingly loaded suitcase containing the decapitated body of a pensioner into his car says her killer told him it contained ‘books’ after he questioned why it was heavy – and reveals he was ‘horrified’ when police told him the grim truth
- Taxi driver who unwittingly loaded decapitated body into his cab ‘horrified’
- Moideenkutty Vadakkhatil asked Jemma Mitchell what was in ‘heavy’ suitcase
- She told him it was filled with books and then remained silent the rest of the trip
- Mitchell was today found guilty of murdering 67-year-old Mee Kuen Chong
- She cut off her victim’s head, stuffed her body in the suitcase and dumped it
A taxi driver has told how he unwittingly helped killer Jemma Mitchell transport the body of her headless victim moments after she had killed her.
Moideenkutty Vadakkhatil even offered to help with the suitcase carrying the body of Mee Kuen Chong into his cab when he saw the killer struggling to lift it.
Mitchell was today found guilty of the murder of the 67-year-old after a trial at the Old Bailey.
The jury deliberated for seven hours before reaching the verdict. Mitchell smiled at her barrister Richard Jory KC, but looked stunned upon hearing the unanimous guilty verdict.
The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Richard Marks said he will pass sentence tomorrow.
An expert in dissection, Mitchell cut off her victim’s head and stuffed the body into a blue suitcase before later dumping it in Devon.
Last June Vadakkhatil picked up Mitchell outside a library on the Harrow Road in Sudbury, close to Chong’s home in Wembley.
He said Mitchell had her hand bandaged and was struggling with the case and another bag she was carrying.
Former osteopath Jemma Mitchell (left) hit Mee Kuen Chong (right) over the head with a weapon at her London home and left her decapitated and badly decomposed body in woods in Salcombe, Devon two weeks later
Screen grab taken from CCTV issued by Metropolitan Police of Jemma Mitchell dragging a blue suitcase outside Ms Chong’s Wembley home. Mitchell told her taxi driver the suitcase was filled with books
‘The large suitcase looked heavy and I saw that she had a bandaged hand so I asked her if I could give her some help,’ he said.
‘She was a little reluctant but that’s what we do, we help customers with their luggage, and so I grabbed hold of the case.
‘But it was so heavy that I struggled to get into the boot on my own and using her good hand the lady had to help me.
‘I asked her what was on it and why it was so heavy and she said ‘just books’.’
Vadakkhatil said Mitchell avoided eye contact and began reading a book that shielded her face during the journey.
The suitcase that was used to carry Ms Chong’s headless body to Devon. When her taxi driver found out what was in the bag, he was ‘horrified’
‘I tried to chat to her but it was obvious that she didn’t want to talk and so I left her in peace and drove the 25-minutes back to Brondesbury Park.
‘The fare was £12.50 but she gave me £10 and said that was all she had.
‘I called the office and they told me not to worry about the missing £2.50 and to get on to the next job.
‘The lady said she was meeting someone but as soon as she got out of the car, she went quickly to the boot and pulled the heavy suitcase out on to the ground.
‘She handled it really rough, not like most people who tend to be quite careful with their bags.
‘The wheels on the case seemed to have buckled slightly from the weight. That was the last I saw of her.’
The taxi driver said there was no blood seeping from the case and only discovered its grisly contents when police later visited him at home.
After her arrest on suspicion of murder Mitchell told police she had injured her hand on the taxi’s sliding door.
Mitchell was captured on CCTV going to Chaplin Road at 8am with the empty blue suitcase.
She was filmed again struggling with the now full suitcase five hours later at 1.13pm as she left the house to take a cab home. Mitchell also had a smaller red and blue case belonging to the victim, full of her personal documents.
Later that day, Mitchell was treated in hospital for a broken finger, which she explained she had injured in a car door. However, the cab driver told police she had the injury when he picked her up.
‘I told the officers it wasn’t true as she’d already had the bandage on her hand when she called for a taxi,’ he said.
‘When the detective told me they believed the case had a body inside I was horrified, I felt sick.
‘I’ve not been able to sleep properly since then. To have helped this woman transport a body of a woman she murdered haunts me.
Ms Chong was said to be a vulnerable person and prone to erratic behaviour
The suitcase used to carry Ms Chong’s headless body to Devon. ‘There was no blood seeping out the case and no smell. I would never have known what was in it. ‘I checked the boot afterwards and there was no stain,’ the taxi driver said
Revealed: Mitchell has conviction for a breach of a non-molestation order relating to her sister and brother-in-law
It can now be reported that Mitchell has a conviction for a breach of a non-molestation order relating to family members.
In 2016, she received a conditional discharge at North West London Magistrates’ Court for breaching the order in respect of her sister and brother-in-law.
Since moving back to the UK, Mitchell was unemployed as she focused on her ill-fated home renovation project which had been beset with problems.
She was never registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), so could not legally practise as an osteopath in Britain.
‘There was no blood seeping out the case and no smell. I would never have known what was in it. I checked the boot afterwards and there was no stain.
‘The woman wasn’t acting strangely, she didn’t appear worried or scared. She was quite calm.’
Vadakkhati said the experience has left him wary about transporting heavy cases.
He said: ‘I double-check what’s in really heavy bags and cases before I put them into the back of the cab.’
Ms Chong’s headless body was found by holidaymakers beside a woodland footpath near Salcombe the next day. The victim, who was 5ft 2in and slim, appeared to have been redressed in clothes meant for a larger woman, jurors heard.
Following a police search of the area, Ms Chong’s skull was recovered a few metres away from the body. A search of Mitchell’s home uncovered Ms Chong’s fake will and personal papers. The blue suitcase had been stored on the roof of a neighbour’s shed.
Although no forensic evidence was recovered from the suitcase, Ms Chong’s DNA was identified on a bloodstained tea towel in a pocket.
Mitchell’s defence asserted that there was no evidence to confirm Ms Chong’s body was in the suitcase and pointed to the lack of evidence indicating a violent assault at her home.
But Deanna Heer KC, prosecuting, suggested Mitchell breaking a finger while at Ms Chong’s house was evidence of a struggle, as well as the fact she lied about it afterwards.
Jurors heard that Ms Chong had suffered from schizophrenia and was referred for help after writing letters to the then-Prince of Wales and prime minister Boris Johnson.
In the months leading up to her murder, she had berated Mitchell for being a messy ‘hoarder’.
Mitchell had been a brilliant medical student and studied Human Sciences at Kings College London and won a first-class degree in 2004. Part of the course was module called the ‘Structural Basis of Human Function’ where she learned how to dissect bodies.
Mitchell also completed a special study course in ‘Experimental Anatomy’ and was so adept she won the Hamilton Prize for anatomical excellence.
She worked as an osteopath in Australia for seven years but her medical career did not work out and she returned to live with her mother at their £2million home in Brondesbury Park, which had been in the family for generations.
Mitchell lived on the first floor and her mother lived on the ground floor. She began to become more religious and started hoarding items. Some of the rooms at the house were so full of junk, she struggled to get through the doors and the kitchen was filthy with rotting food on the cooker and freezers packed full of food which had passed their sell-by date years ago.
‘An evil woman who committed an act of evil’: Police statement on murderer Mitchell
‘Deborah was 67 years old when she was murdered in June of last year. Today at the Old Bailey, a 38-year-old woman, Jemma Mitchell, has been found guilty of that murder.
‘Deborah was born in Malaysia. Through her own hard work and initiative, she made a good life for herself, finally settling in London where she was a much valued and loved member of the community. The jury heard that her later years were marred by poor mental health; throughout this time she never lost her firm religious beliefs nor her belief in the goodness of charity.
‘And it was upon these beliefs that Jemma Mitchell preyed in an attempt to take a significant amount of money from Deborah. When Deborah refused, Mitchell murdered her.
‘She forced the body into a suitcase and she transported the body some distance across north London where she retained it for over a fortnight.
‘At some point she decapitated Deborah’s body before finally driving some 250 miles to the coast of Devon where she discarded her remains.
‘Unfortunately for Mitchell the following day, on 27 June, a holidaying family in Salcombe found Deborah’s remains and contacted the police.
‘Mitchell was arrested in early July and charged with Deborah’s murder several days later. Our investigations revealed that Mitchell was in the process of doctoring wills in an attempt to make a significant claim on the estates of Deborah but luckily this attempt never came to fruition.
‘Mitchell has never accepted responsibility for Deborah’s murder so there are certain questions which may remain unanswered. Why she kept her body for over a fortnight, why she decapitated her, why she deposited her remains in Salcombe.
‘But what we do know is that it was an evil act carried out by an evil woman. And the only motive clearly was one of financial gain.’
When police contacted Mitchell as they searched for the victim, she left a voicemail saying: ‘I tried to return your call yesterday… I was getting in touch to let you know that Mee said she was planning to stay with friends near her sister’s family on the coast. She said she felt neglected on 7 June 2021 and wanted to leave.’
On July 6 police arrived at Brondesbury Park to arrest Mitchell. After she was cautioned Mitchell said: ‘I know that she has gone away.’ She then turned to her mother and said: ‘It’s not true.’
But police had found a handbag next to the victim’s body containing a length of orange rope of which an identical type was found among the rubbish at Mitchell’s home. Police also found a 2021 wall calendar with an entry written by Mitchell for June 26, the day she drove to Salcombe, in two different inks. It read: ‘8am collect body back C letter will copy 2 hr walk.’
In a box in the bedroom was a copy of Mitchell’s will, written in 2017 and a will in the name of the victim, dated October 27, 2020, which made Mitchell the main beneficiary.
It left 95 per cent of the deceased’s estate to the defendant ‘to be applied for the benefit of ‘Brondesbury Park’s projects’ and 5 per cent to the defendant’s mother, Hillary Collard.
The will had been faked by Mitchell who had forged the signatures including that of a witness who had not seen Mitchell since 2013.
Detectives searched her computer and found the Word document of the will which she had created on July 1, 2021, three weeks after she murdered Ms Chong.
Officers also found a torn-out newspaper article in Mitchell’s bedroom entitled ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Claiming an Estate’ dated June 28, 2021.
Prosecutor Deanna Heer told the court: ‘A large sum was needed to complete the repairs on the defendant’s house.
‘In Mee Kuen Chong, the prosecution say the defendant found someone from whom she thought she could get that money – by persuading Mee Kuen Chong to give it to her, or if not when she was alive, then by forging her will after she had killed her.’
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