Accused sky diver killer Clair Armstrong said he intended to stab himself through the heart when he realized what he had done – but that he was too much of a coward.
Ashley Kemp, 55, also a top skydiver, strangled Clair to death following an argument after he was charged with the attempted rape of a teenage girl at work.
He claimed he called the police and confessed to wanting to get help for the 50-year-old mother of three, after watching her take her last breath after falling off the bed into a nearby cupboard.
But her body was already showing signs of rigor mortis when she was found — despite claims by her killer that he had strangled her just two hours earlier, a murder trial jury was told.
Kemp also denied “pinning” her despite doing so during 911 shortly before her body was discovered by an armed police officer.
Accused sky diver killer Clair Armstrong said he planned to stab himself through the heart when he realized what he’d done – but he was too much of a coward
PC Samuel Farrow told jurors how he and a colleague from the firearms unit were called to Clair’s detached house in the village of Messingham, Lincolnshire, after a paramedic found the door unlocked and couldn’t get an answer.
He said, “I went into the bedroom and saw that there was a figure lying under the covers on the left side of the bed, although the duvet cover had been pulled up to the top of the bed.
“I pulled back the duvet and found an adult female. Her eyes were open. She was unconscious.
“She was wearing underpants and a dressing gown and was laid on her back on the bed.”
He checked her pulse and noted ‘her skin was cold to the touch and her body was stiff. I thought rigor mortis was starting to build up, suggesting she had been like this for a while.”
She was pronounced dead at 1:05 a.m. by a paramedic, who also noticed signs of rigor mortis.
PC Farrow said the only sign of disturbance was a drop of blood in the bedroom.
Kemp dialed 999 on his cell phone after leaving the house unlocked and Clair’s body in the upstairs bedroom.
Ashley Kemp (left), 55, also a top skydiver, strangled Clair to death after an argument after he was accused of the attempted rape of a teenage girl at work
Grimsby Crown Court heard that when he failed to give police details of his exact whereabouts, they were able to pinpoint his location from the phone signal.
But this time Kemp drove his silver Nissan Qashqai thirteen miles away at high speed through thick fog on a country road.
Clair was an accelerated free-form instructor
When the vehicle abruptly disappeared, Police Sergeant Mitchell Walker realized it had crashed and rushed to the crime scene.
He saw a figure standing in the roadside and spoke to him through the window of his patrol car. He told the court: ‘He was dazed and unsteady on his feet.
“I told Kemp to put his hands out for him. I said, “Right now, Ash is under arrest on suspicion of murder.”
“He said, ‘Who did I kill? Murder who?’ His breathing became shallow and he began to shake.
“I grabbed a flashlight from the front passenger seat and examined his head wound, which was no longer bleeding but slightly swollen.
“He had blood on both hands that had dried between his fingers. He kept breathing shakily and asked ‘Where are we?’.
He was taken to hospital where PC Martin Leak, who had been instructed to breathe him in, said: ‘When I approached him with a breathalyzer test he said ‘I’m very drunk’.
“He said he had a bottle of wine and a few pints. But the breath sample registered zero. He shrugged and said, “Must have been before.”‘
Dr. Kirsten Hope, a pathologist at the Department of the Interior for 10 years, said Clair’s body had injuries she called “classic signs of suffocation.”
She added: “There was strong evidence that Clair Armstrong’s neck was compressed forcefully before her death and is typical of manual strangulation.
“It’s a variable how long it takes someone to lose consciousness, but it could possibly be two to three minutes.”
‘It must be quite a force to break those (neck) bones.
Bruises on the upper arms were consistent with her being pinned down during the fight.
“It would take significant blunt force trauma to break the nose and more than one blunt force in my opinion.
“There is very clear pathological evidence that Clair Armstrong suffered a significant neck injury and died of manual asphyxia.”
Kemp also denied “pinning” her, despite saying he had done so during 911 shortly before her body was discovered by an armed police officer.
The fact that de Clair was 50 years old and her neck bones would therefore have been more brittle than those of a younger person did not affect her opinion when cross-examined by the defense. “I still think this is a significant strength,” she said.
The murder trial has been told that Clair was last alive on the evening of Friday, November 4, 2022, approximately 24 hours before her killer’s confession dialed 999.
Kemp claims the argument happened just over two hours before he called. But jurors heard evidence that Clair stopped responding to WhatsApp messages early Saturday morning, which was odd.
She was also over the driving limit when she died. Blood tests showed an alcohol value of 107 mg per 100 ml. The legal limit for driving is 80 mg.
But Kemp told officers who interviewed him that the couple had not consumed alcohol the night Clair died.
He said, “We had a rough night the night before. We went out with some friends and were pretty hungover and didn’t feel like drinking.’
The couple met at Drop Zone, a skydiving center at Hibaldstow airfield, near Lincoln.
Mrs. Armstrong was last seen alive shortly after midnight on Saturday 5 November returning home on foot with Kemp from an evening at her local pub in Messingham, North Lincolnshire, with her brother, sister and their partners
Clair was an accelerated free-form instructor. She had worked there for three or four years and had been skydiving for a long time.
Her previous partner was a parachute rigger.
Kemp was a manager of the company where he had worked for six years.
He was fired for gross misconduct after the sexual allegation was made against him on August 1, 2022 and the police investigation continued.
He had been arrested at passport control at Leeds-Bradford Airport when the couple returned from their first holiday together in July.
He said in the interview about their two-and-a-half year relationship, “She is a wonderful person. She has tons of energy. She is also very beautiful.
“She’s just amazing and I loved her dearly. We talked about getting married and getting engaged. But because of my arrest, that didn’t happen.
“We thought we would have some answers by then and this would be over. Our lives were ruined. Before then we were extremely happy and this was our first holiday together.
“This particular day was told she wanted me out of the house and we were over when I loved her so much.
Forensic teams arrive at the scene of the investigation in Messingham, North Lincolnshire, last November
“She said it was all my fault – social services and the police knocked on her door.
She looked like she really meant it. I jumped out of bed to calm her down. She went for me and I just snapped.”
When he realized what he had done, he slit his wrist with a razor blade, which he says is why his hands were covered in blood when police found him.
He also took a knife from the kitchen drawer.
He told police: “I wanted to stab myself in the heart, but I was a coward and I just couldn’t.
I’m dressed. I went out to the car and called the police.’
Kemp, of Robinson Grove, Hibaldstow, has admitted manslaughter but denied murder.
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow, when Kemp is expected to testify.