Hotel manager’s call to police after man kills transgender woman in his room

Jesse McDonald had excelled at both school and in sport.

A gifted tennis player, he was plagued by injuries that eventually ended his dream of turning professional.

Instead, focusing his attention on his education, McDonald, from Sussex, secured a place at the London School of Economics to read history.

But on March 18, last year the 25-year-old brutally murdered transgender woman Naomi Hersi in his hotel room.

He stabbed her 11 times and she suffered 19 separate injuries in what police have described as a "forensic, mindless attack".

The cold-hearted killer is now serving life behind bars and must remain locked up for 20 years.

By 2014 McDonald had dropped out of university.

McDonald was looking for a fresh start and moved into an annex of a hotel right at the end of the flight path to Heathrow.

Rather than find a conventional job, he turned to the dark web to make his money.

McDonald set up a sophisticated drug dealing business, which included spreadsheets and menus for customers.

His whole life revolved around the internet and he met his girlfriend, 17-year-old Natalia Darkowka on a dating app.

She was said to be "spellbound" by her older boyfriend.

So much so that she would risk everything to help him cover up the murder of an innocent victim.

The first inkling the police had that something was very wrong was a chilling phone call from McDonald in the aftermath of the killing.

In it he says: "I have had a very hard week and I didn't mean to kill anyone."

He refuses to explain and instead promises to call back.

Several hours later officers receive a second call from the manager of the hotel where McDonald has been staying insisting he had been told his tenant "had clearly killed someone".

Searching his room, officers find Naomi's body. She had been dead for some time.

Police, unable to trace McDonald's phone, manage to track Natalia's, and arrest the couple at a hotel in Teddington.

From the second he is arrested McDonald insists he acted only in self-defence.

The drop-out had just returned from spending the weekend with his girlfriend in Wiltshire, where he claims after a "three-hour sex session" he drove back to his home in the hotel.

Just 40 minutes after arriving back he logs onto a swingers' website, where he says he is looking for some "edgy, risky sex".

McDonald then makes the hour's drive to Naomi's home in North West London – and this is where his web of lies begin.

First, he claims he was offered a drink which he says was spiked with the date rape drug, GHB and then performs a sex act on Naomi.

Officers carry out toxicology tests which prove there is no date rape drug in his system.

He says he woke up on Naomi's sofa, wrapped in a duvet, before she offered him crystal meth, something he insists he has never taken before.

Again, tests prove he has, in fact, been using the drug for at least four months.

McDonald then insists he was held in Naomi's flat against his will for two days where he was raped, forced to take drugs.

He tells police: "I feel like it was something to do with the drugs. I became a victim and a shadow of myself.

"I found I was bound and raped."

But police obtain CCTV showing the two out shopping – not once does McDonald attempt to raise the alarm of flee the person who is supposedly holding him captive.

Finally, McDonald says Naomi demanded money for the drugs he has taken and he agrees to drive her to his home to pay her £80 and then drive her back.

CCTV again shows the pair arriving, with McDonald moving around freely and even making them both a drink.

But he tells police in interview that he was unable to get Naomi to leave and was still in her power.

Meanwhile, his teenage girlfriend has been desperately trying to get in touch with him, sending repeated text messages.

He replies and she rushes to the hotel, before being captured going back out to buy cleaning products.

The couple remain inside for several hours before re-emerging and driving off in McDonald's BMW.

The scene they leave behind is a disaster.

Blood is smeared across the walls, Naomi's headband is on the floor while her jacket is on the bed.

Angela Moriarty, senior Crown prosecutor, said: "It wouldn't be speculation to say that they have given up after a few hours because that's exactly what they have done.

"They have left black bin bags filled with blood-stained items and fled the premises."

While Natalia refuses to answer any questions in police interview, McDonald is very forthcoming with his story about being kept against his will.

He then tells officers that he acted in only self-defence when he claims Naomi suddenly attacked him.

McDonald says: "He told me he wanted a face-off  but I didn't expect him to go from zero to 100 and that's what happened."

He claimed the pair started fighting and he grabbed a beer bottle and smashed it into Naomi's face in self-defence.

However, he said it made her more angry and the fight ended up in the bathroom, where he started stabbing her.

McDonald said: "I remember the glass going into her neck but she went for me.

"We were tussling around the room. When I stabbed her I was surprised because it had little effect, if anything it seemed to make her more angry."

But it was his description of Naomi's body as a "carcass" that made police certain he was lying.

His claims are soon disproved.

Naomi had virtually no defensive injuries, and neither did McDonald.

Some of the knife wounds to the chest were 9cm deep.

Det Insp Tom Dahri from the Met Police said: "That's a lot of violence – there's no way that was self-defence."

Police now have enough to charge McDonald with murder and Natalia with manslaughter.

During their trial, Naomi's sister, Amina, is horrified about how they behave in court.

She said: "We had to sit and watch them in the dock.

"Every day he was smirking and playing with his girlfriend's hair. They were cuddling."

The jury saw through McDonald's lies and convicted him of murder.

He was jailed for life and must serve 20 years behind bars.

Natalia was convicted of perverting the cause of justice and given a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service.

But for Naomi's family, their grief still goes on.

  • The Body In The Bathroom: The Murder of Naomi Hersi is on 5Star at 9pm on Monday.

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