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Man gets 27 years for woods murder

A 21-year-old man has been jailed for life for the murder of an economics graduate who was battered to death in woodland near her workplace.

David Simmonds, of Derby Road, Heanor, Derbyshire, was told by a judge at Nottingham Crown Court that he will serve a minimum term of 27 years and 213 days before being considered for release.

Simmonds admitted the murder of 25-year-old 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.

Simmonds originally pleaded not guilty to Chinese-born Mrs Ashton's murder but in a dramatic turnaround changed his plea to guilty last week.

Simmonds, at 6ft 2in and 19 stone, was nearly three times the weight of Mrs Ashton, who stood at a petite 4ft 11in, weighed six-and-a-half stone and wore size two shoes.

He subjected her to a brutal, sustained and violent attack which ended her life when her heart was effectively crushed by his weight on top of her chest and ruptured.

The pathologist who examined her body said her injuries were of the type usually only sustained in car accidents or a fall from a great height.

Detectives leading the investigation said the attack on Mrs Ashton, who was on her way home to the house she shared in Springfield Crescent with her music teacher husband, Matthew, was a chance attack and Simmonds did his best to conceal the murder.