Man charged in Jia Ashton murder probe

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The Independent Online

A 21-year-old man has been charged with the murder of an economics graduate whose body was found in woodland near her workplace.

A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said David Simmonds, who was arrested at his flat in Derby Road, Heanor, yesterday has been charged with killing Jia Ashton.

Mrs Ashton, who lived in Somercotes, Derbyshire, and worked for chocolate-maker Thorntons in nearby Swanwick, disappeared on March 10 and was found dead in nearby woods three days later.

Mrs Ashton, who was 25, left the Thorntons site shortly after 5pm on Thursday March 10 and is known to have walked into Sleetmoor Woods, along a path known locally as the "yellow brick road".

Her body was found in the woods at 4.30pm on Sunday March 13 and a £20,000 reward was subsequently offered by an anonymous benefactor for information to catch her killer.

The police spokesman said Simmonds was arrested by officers at his home at around 3pm yesterday, and they later searched a house in Blenheim Avenue, Swanwick, as part of the investigation.

Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Terry Branson said the arrest was not as a result of anyone coming forward with fresh information, but came about following eight weeks of intensive inquiries in Amber Valley by his team.

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Cotterill said: "I want to offer my sincere thanks to the people of Somercotes and surrounding areas for their tremendous support during this inquiry.

"The number of calls we have received in the last eight weeks has been outstanding and this helped to piece together the events surrounding Jia's murder.

"I also want to thank the local media for their responsible reporting throughout but I would now appeal to the media to respect the privacy and the rights of all families involved in this tragic case.

"No further information is being released now in light of the fact that a man has now been charged with Jia's murder."

Police said Simmonds is due to appear at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court tomorrow.

Mrs Ashton's husband Matthew, whom she met while studying economics at the University of Warwick and married in her native China in 2006, has spoken of his devastation over his wife's death.

In a statement issued by Derbyshire Constabulary shortly after she was killed, the 26-year-old described her as his "pocket princess".

He said: "At 25, she had already achieved more than most 60-year-olds and I feel that if you hadn't met her by now, one day you would have.

"Those who had met her should consider themselves richer for it."