Northern Ireland

Jonathan Creswell: Former partner felt like ‘she was in a horror movie’ when attacked by Katie Simpson murder accused

Creswell (36) was found dead at his home after the first day of his trial for the rape and murder of showjumper Katie Simpson

An ex-partner of the man accused of the rape and murder of showjumper Katie Simpson has told of his violence towards her including one assault she described as like being “in a horror movie”.

Abi Lyle, who said she feared Jonathan Creswell would kill someone one day, had been due to give evidence at his trial.

He was found dead at his home on Wednesday, a day after his trial got underway while out on bail. His death is not being treated as suspicious.

Katie died in hospital on August 9 2020, six days after an incident at the home he shared with her sister - who was Creswell’s partner at the time in Lettershandoney in Co Derry.

It has emerged that he was previously jailed for six months in 2010 after pleading guilty to assaulting Ms Lyle, also a showjumper.

She told BBC NI that she suffered regular beatings during their nine-month relationship, being attacked as often as every two weeks.

“Although it is a shame we didn’t get to see Jonathan Creswell face his crimes and be brought to justice, I take a lot of solace in the fact that he will never be able to hurt another person ever again,” she said of Creswell’s death.

Having met him at an equestrian event in Belfast in 2008, she said his initial charm masked a volatile, jealous and controlling nature.

She described how she looked like a “Dalmatian” because of the bruises on her body.

She told how one attack in a wooded area near the Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan left her fearing for her life.

“I never felt fear like that... to just be in a car with somebody and you don’t know where you are going... he took me into the woods and threatened me, every time, he threatened to kill me,” she said.

“I thought he was going to do it this time, he didn’t obviously, but that attack lasted hours.

“He was just beating me, throwing me around, choking me, screaming at me, calling me names and asking me horrible questions.”

Abi Lyle
Abi Lyle was due to give evidence at the murder trial PICTURE: BBC

She said apologies followed, but another incident saw him threaten to throw her into a bath of bleach.

“One evening I came home and I could smell it from downstairs, he had filled the bath with bleach.” she said.

“I started screaming and someone actually came to the door.

“I don’t know who that was but, thank you. Someone came and banged on the door and he (Creswell) said ‘if you’re quiet I won’t put you in the bleach’ so I was quiet.

“So I just got a normal beating instead.”

Ms Lyle now competes in international dressage, hoping to represent Ireland at the Paris Olympics in July.

She said she was heartbroken to hear of the death of Katie Simpson and had reached out to the family at the time.

Before Creswell’s death halted the murder trial, Ms Simpson’s family had described her as a “brave, caring, funny” person who “lit up every room”.

Despite Creswell’s history of abuse and the serious allegations against him, he was released on bail within a year of Ms Simpson’s death on June 30 2021.

Prosecutors at the time had raised serious objections to his release.

A spokesperson from the Public Prosecution Service told The Irish News: “The decision on whether to grant any defendant bail is a matter for the independent judiciary, rather than the PPS. In this case, the prosecution made representations outlining significant objections to bail. Bail was granted by the court.”

The Lady Chief Justice’s Office in a statement to The Irish News said bail had been granted “on strict terms”.

A spokesperson said: “In granting bail, the judge said that he was entitled to the presumption of innocence and that there was likely to be some considerable delay before the case came to trial.”

They added that bail was granted on strict terms to protect the victim’s family, witnesses and the public, and the court was not made aware of any breaches of the bail conditions.

The spokesperson said there had been no application to revoke bail at the start of the trial.

“The presumption of innocence means that the law must regard everyone charged with an offence - regardless of how grave it is - as innocent unless and until the contrary is proved to the required standard after due process of law,” the spokesperson said.

“There is also a presumption in favour of releasing an accused person on bail unless the court is satisfied that there is a risk of e.g. flight, re-offending, or interference with witnesses which cannot be managed on bail.”

The Police Ombudsman is still awaiting a response from the PSNI about the investigation into Ms Simpson’s death.

Prosecutors had claimed Creswell attempted to cover-up the alleged murder by claiming the 21-year-old died by suicide.

The Police Ombudsman launched an investigation in 2021 after receiving complaints about the police investigation.

The police watchdog subsequently submitted a misconduct file to the Professional Standards Department of the PSNI in April 2023 about the conduct of a number of police officers.

It is understood the Police Ombudsman is still awaiting the outcome of its recommendations to the PSNI.

According to BBC NI the PSNI the file was extensive and it would “take some time” to fully and properly consider its content.

A family notice which has appeared online says that Creswell will be buried following a private funeral at a later date.