Skydiver who murdered partner when she confronted him about teenager rape allegation jailed for life

3 May 2023, 16:45 | Updated: 3 May 2023, 16:54

Kemp has been jailed for life for Clair's murder
Kemp has been jailed for life for Clair's murder. Picture: Humberside Police

By Will Taylor

A skydiver who murdered his partner when she accused him of trying to rape a teenager has been jailed for life.

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Ashley Kemp, 55, killed Clair Armstrong when she confronted him about an allegation he raped a girl.

The 50-year-old mother of three was found dead in their bed at their home in Messingham, Lincolnshire, after the attack late on November 4.

Their relationship was already strained and Kemp was accused of attempting to rape the teenage girl at work.

Kemp admitted head butting Armstrong and strangling her to stop her talking, but denied murder.

Read more: Man arrested on suspicion of murder after woman in her 20s reported missing in east London

However, he was convicted after a trial and on Wednesday he was sentenced to a minimum term of 19 years in jail.

Judge John Thackray KC said during sentencing at Hull Crown Court: "You committed the offence in the home of Clair, a place where she was entitled to feel safe and secure."

He added: "During your evidence, I detected nothing but self-pity from beginning to end."

Kemp murdered Clair Armstrong after she suggested she might leave him
Kemp murdered Clair Armstrong after she suggested she might leave him. Picture: Social media
Clair was killed at home in Lincolnshire
Clair was killed at home in Lincolnshire. Picture: Humberside Police

"You committed the offence in the home of Clair, a place where she was entitled to feel safe and secure."

She had confronted him about the rape allegation and asked Kemp to leave after they had got back from the pub, Kemp claimed.

A teenage girl had made "allegations of a sexual nature" against him.

Clair had told friends she was struggling with the claim and that the relationship could end.

Read more: Man, 24, charged with murder after 'much-loved son' stabbed to death at Cornwall nightclub

But Judge Thackray said: "You decided that if you could not have her, nobody could.

Kemp attacked her when she confronted him, and his head was bruised in what the trial heard was Clair’s attempts to stop him killing her.

He hit her head twice, breaking her nose, then pinned her and strangled her with so much force he broke her hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage.

Clair was described as "brilliant" by the judge
Clair was described as "brilliant" by the judge. Picture: Social media

Her injuries also suggested he smothered her to stop her screaming for help.

"She was undoubtedly fighting for her life, evidenced by the injuries caused to your forehead and the fact that she had bitten her tongue," the judge said.

"I reject your account that she was attacking you. Except for the injuries caused to your forehead, you did not have any injuries consistent with the repeated blows alleged by you."

The trial heard how Kemp told police: "I've killed my girlfriend. We got into a fight and I ended up strangling her.

"She is upstairs on the bed in the main bedroom. We just had an argument, that was all, and it just got heated.

"She just started thrashing out and I just reacted. I never react... I pinned her down and just choked her."

He called police to confess, then crashed his car on the B1398 some 11 miles from their home.

A handwritten note found in his clothes said: "It is lies. It has torn the family apart. It's time to go. I can't be happy now. I'm so sorry."

Kemp was jailed for life
Kemp was jailed for life. Picture: Humberside Police

The judge described beauty salon owner Clair as an "impressive woman" who ran her own business and worked as a skydiving instructor.

She had given Kemp a home when he lost his place because of sexual allegations that led him to him being let go, the judge said.

Clair's brother-in-law Ian Farrell said her death "shattered us all and left a huge hole in our lives that can never be filled".

"Clair, our beautiful sister and mum, was tragically taken from us in such horrific circumstances that we will never accept or understand," he said.

"We miss her incredibly and regardless of what the person responsible for killing Clair receives as a punishment it will never ever be enough to ease our pain for losing her."

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