Skip to main content

How Jemma Mitchell, 'The Body in the Suitcase' killer was caught

Body In The Suitcase: The Murder Of Deborah Chong
Image: Body In The Suitcase: The Murder Of Deborah Chong

Body in the Suitcase: The Murder of Deborah Chong explores the remarkable circumstances surrounding the disturbing case of Deborah Chong, who was murdered and decapitated. Stream now on Crime + Investigation Play or catch up on demand.

Jemma Mitchell became the first woman in the United Kingdom to be handed a life sentence on live television. The killer was found guilty of murdering her friend, Deborah Chong, in a case with minimal forensic evidence and relied heavily on CCTV evidence.

The use of CCTV in murder investigations is becoming increasingly prominent in the UK. Footage captured on camera was vital in several high-profile cases, including the murder of James Bulger and the London nail bombings. Data collected on 44 murder investigations across four police forces in Britain found that CCTV evidence was used in 95% of the cases for a variety of purposes, including the identification and elimination of suspects.

It is estimated that there are around 900,000 CCTV cameras across London. One of these cameras captured the last known sighting of Deborah walking by her home on Chaplin Road, Wembley. Several other cameras caught Mitchell’s chilling behaviour before and after the murder.

On 27th June 2021, a woman on holiday in the picturesque town of Salcombe, Devon, came across the badly decomposed body of a female. She was decapitated and found with a church card and excerpts from the Bible. The authorities immediately searched the area, and her head was discovered days later. The body was soon identified as 67-year-old Deborah Chong.

Due to the severity of decomposition, the pathologist who undertook the autopsy on Deborah’s body was unable to ascertain an exact cause of death. However, what was found were several rib fractures and a fracture to the skull. With a murder investigation well underway, the police spoke to those who knew Deborah, and attention soon focused on Jemma Mitchell.

On 11th June 2021, Mitchell was seen leaving her home in Willesden with a backpack and a large blue, seemingly empty, suitcase and making her way to Deborah’s house at around 8am. During the journey, the killer altered her appearance by changing clothes and placing her backpack in the suitcase. Five hours later, she emerged from the house with the suitcase looking much heavier and carrying an extra bag. It was later established that Deborah’s body had been placed in the suitcase, with all her personal documents stuffed in the extra bag.

Mitchell was captured on multiple cameras dragging the bags for two hours before she got into a taxi for her 40-minute trip home. Within that period, she had contacted several taxi companies nine times before getting picked up. Later that same evening, Mitchell turned up at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London with a broken finger, which she claimed to have sustained after shutting it in a door.

For two weeks, Deborah’s body remained in the suitcase at the home Mitchell shared with her mother. Cameras caught Mitchell struggling to load the suitcase in a car she rented using a stolen mobile phone from her deceased neighbour. The killer then made the 200-mile trip to Salcombe, where she buried her victim.

With the police closing in on Mitchell, they attempted to contact her regarding Deborah’s disappearance. She phoned back and left a voicemail saying, 'I tried to return your call yesterday. I was getting in touch to let you know that [Deborah] said she was planning to stay with friends near her sister's family on the coast. She said she felt neglected on 7th June 2021 and wanted to leave’.

On 6th July, police officers arrested Mitchell at her home, and the Metropolitan Police later released the dramatic video footage that captured the arrest. During the intense interrogation that followed, she responded ‘no comment’ to every question that she was asked. The killer remained silent throughout the police interviews and refused to give her version of events.

Despite her silence, Mitchell stood trial for murder a year later in October 2022. Her refusal to talk to the authorities was apparent in court as not only did she plead not guilty, but she also refused to give evidence in her defence.

Her defence team relied heavily on the lack of DNA linking Deborah’s body to the suitcase and the victim’s home showing no sign of a struggle. The court was told how the injuries Deborah sustained could have come from being pushed onto a surface or from a weapon. However, no weapon was ever discovered. After seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Mitchell guilty of murder.