Binge ended in mur­der of trans­gen­der woman

FOR­MER A GRADE STU­DENT JAILED FOR KILLING AT HEATHROW HO­TEL

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - News - By EMILY PENNINK &TOM MATTHEWS tom.matthews@reach­plc.com @Tom_Matthews

A univer­sity dropout has been jailed for at least 20 years for mur­der­ing a trans­gen­der woman dur­ing a sex and drug binge.

For­mer A grade stu­dent and ten­nis ace Jesse McDon­ald, 25, con­tacted 36-year-old Naomi Hersi through dat­ing web­site Fab­swingers.com, the Old Bai­ley heard.

Af­ter days to­gether, McDon­ald drugged and stabbed the hos­pi­tal­ity worker to death with a knife and a bro­ken bot­tle at a ho­tel near Heathrow Air­port where he was liv­ing.

The in­tel­li­gent and well-spo­ken de­fen­dant then spun a web of lies to his mother, who lived in Hay­wards Heath in Sus­sex. He hid in his room as he waited for his 18-year-old girl­friend Na­talia Darkowska to help clean up, ju­rors were told.

But the plan to dis­pose of the body was scup­pered when po­lice found the vic­tim ly­ing half-naked, partly cov­ered by a rug on the small bath­room floor.

For­mer Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics un­der­grad­u­ate McDon­ald de­nied mur­der, claim­ing he acted in self­de­fence.

He and Darkowska, from Trow­bridge in Wilt­shire, both de­nied per­vert­ing the course of jus­tice fol­low­ing the killing in March.

The cou­ple wept and em­braced in the dock as they were found guilty of the charges fol­low­ing a trial at the Old Bai­ley in Oc­to­ber.

McDon­ald was jailed for life with a min­i­mum term of 20 years for mur­der with 30 months con­cur­rent for the sec­ond of­fence.

Judge Mark Den­nis QC re­jected the de­fen­dant’s claims he was drugged, raped and held in a “death grip” by the vic­tim.

He pointed out his ca­pac­ity for mix­ing up fact and fic­tion, say­ing McDon­ald had a com­plete dis­re­gard for any­one but him­self.

The judge said: “This was a dread­ful as­sault on some­one who it would ap­pear will have been in no po­si­tion to re­spond to an at­tack by you us­ing a weapon. He was over­whelmed by the na­ture of your vi­o­lence.”

Ear­lier in mit­i­ga­tion, Michael Turner QC told how McDon­ald had a “promis­ing aca­demic ca­reer” which was cut short when his drink was spiked in 2014.

The de­fen­dant’s par­ents, who at­tended the trial, sent a let­ter to the judge ex­press­ing their sor­row.

In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment, Ms Hersi’s fam­ily de­scribed her as a “sweet and trust­ing” per­son who was “funny and care­free”.

Her sis­ter Amina, a hospi­tal doc­tor, was the first to hear the news of her death while at work.

Fa­ther Mo­hamed Duale de­scribed the mur­der as the “ul­ti­mate in­jus­tice”.

He said: “Our lives will never be the same. The grief has swal­lowed us up. It’s con­sumed us. Maybe one day it will not be so painful but the vi­o­lence of his death haunts us.”

The trial heard how McDon­ald, who grew up in West Sus­sex, did well in school and played ten­nis at county level but turned to deal­ing drugs and trad­ing in Bit­coins af­ter drop­ping out of the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics (LSE).

On March 12, he con­tacted Ms Hersi within 45 min­utes of ar­riv­ing back at the Heathrow Palace Ho­tel in Houn­slow from vis­it­ing his girl­friend.

He drove his BMW to the vic­tim’s home in Mill Hill, north-west Lon­don, where he stayed for three days be­fore they both went back to the small ho­tel room in Houn­slow.

Through­out the pe­riod, McDon­ald is said to have ig­nored his girl­friend’s in­creas­ingly fre­quent at­tempts to get in touch with him.

But on Fri­day March 16, he sent her a mes­sage which said: “Baby I been a f ****** id­iot.”

An­other read: “I love u so much. Not cheated x. Got ad­dicted to a nasty drug I had never met be­fore.”

He then told her he had “got a big drug dealer” ly­ing across his floor, adding “won’t wake up ... mas­sive black guy”.

While the de­fen­dants were clean­ing up, McDon­ald phoned his mother and claimed he had been chained up for days, drugged with GHB (de­pres­sant and date rare drug gamma hy­drox­y­bu­tyrate)and re­peat­edly raped.

McDon­ald al­leged he had stabbed Ms Hersi up to 40 times in a frenzy, be­liev­ing she was about to smother him with a pil­low.

His mother, from Hay­wards Heath, phoned the po­lice af­ter the con­ver­sa­tion with her son.

The de­fen­dant also of­fered his land­lord a de­signer watch if he cleared up his room be­fore con­fess­ing he had killed some­one, ju­rors heard.

Some 10 min­utes af­ter his last call, po­lice ar­rived at the prop­erty and found Ms Hersi’s body and the mur­der weapon.

The de­fen­dants were tracked down to a ho­tel in Ted­ding­ton and ar­rested.

Dur­ing his po­lice in­ter­view, McDon­ald con­tin­ued to claim he had been bound and raped.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence, the Brighton-born de­fen­dant said he had con­tacted Ms Hersi on­line “be­cause I’m a com­plete id­iot”.

He made no re­ac­tion as he was sent down. Darkowska will be sen­tenced at a later date.

Jesse McDon­ald

McDon­ald’s girl­friend Na­talia Darkowska

IM­AGES: PA

Tesco CCTV show­ing Naomi Hersi with McDon­ald

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