Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Mother 'can't forgive Jia's killer'

David Simmonds must serve ast least 27 years for the murder of Jia Ashton

The mother of an economics graduate has said she can never forgive her daughter's killer for destroying the lives of so many when he battered the 25-year-old to death in woodland near where she worked.

Penny (Pan) Ning was not in court as the judge sentenced David Simmonds to serve a minimum term of 27 years and 213 days for the murder of Jia Ashton, whose body was discovered in Sleetmoor Woods, near Somercotes in Derbyshire on March 13, three days after she was last seen leaving her job at chocolate-maker Thorntons.

In a letter to the judge at Nottingham Crown Court, Ms Ning apologised for not being at the hearing but said the pain was just "too great".

She said her life and that of her daughter's husband Matthew Ashton has been destroyed by David Simmonds. "He killed my hopes, my dreams and my future. All of my joy in life died with my darling daughter," she said.

She would never be able to forgive Simmonds as she could not understand why he did "this terrible thing". "Because I cannot understand, I cannot forget," she said.

"I miss my daughter very much and my hearts breaks for her over and over again, even as I write this. No mother, no husband and no family should suffer the pain we have been subjected to over the past terrible six months."

Ms Ning said she had returned to her homeland of China to be closer to friends and family and the place where Jia grew up and her dreams "took shape".

The judge spoke of Mrs Ashton's "golden future" when sentencing Simmonds, of Derby Road, Heanor, Derbyshire. His Honour Judge Michael Stokes said: "She achieved a good job where she was very liked and respected. There was to be a golden future until you came along and destroyed it, and you destroyed that future and that happiness in a most cruel and wicked manner."

He said that had Simmonds only wanted to rob Mrs Ashton it would have been a simple matter to relieve her of the small amount she had, given the difference in weight between him and his victim.

Instead the "severity" of the attack showed Simmonds must have had "most sinister thoughts" in his mind, Mr Stokes said. He said that Mrs Ashton's final moments must have been spent in "abject terror".