Man accused of showjumper murder threatened me with bath of bleach, ex says

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Abi Lyle says throughout her nine month relationship with Jonathan Creswell he subjected her to physical abuse
By Keiron Tourish
BBC News NI north-west reporter

A man who was on trial for the murder and rape of showjumper Katie Simpson was an incredibly violent and abusive individual, a former partner has said.

Katie Simpson died in 2020. Jonathan Creswell was found dead at his home a day after his trial got under way.

The 36-year-old was previously jailed for six months in 2010 after pleading guilty to assaulting Abi Lyle.

She described being regularly beaten at the hands of Creswell during their nine-month relationship.

At one point when he attacked her in a wooded area, it felt like she “was in a horror movie”, she said.

Abi Lyle, who was due to give evidence at the murder trial before it was halted suddenly following Jonathan Creswell’s sudden death, said she believed it was only a matter of time before he killed someone.

Warning: This story contains details some readers may find upsetting.

Ms Lyle first met Jonathan Creswell at an equestrian event in Belfast in 2008 and they began dating after swapping numbers and texts.

At first he was “charming and very funny” but she soon discovered he was incredibly jealous, coercive and had a wicked temper, she said.

Ms Lyle described how several times Jonathan Creswell beat her so badly it left her looking “like a Dalmatian” because of the amount of bruises on her body.

Jonathan Creswell was found dead at home on Wednesday morning

She said she was beaten up “every couple of weeks”.

“Every couple of weeks for those nine months, I did something that would be unacceptable to him,” she added.

Ms Lyle said things he deemed “unacceptable” could be anything from meeting up with friends, texting someone on her phone, or going to an event he did not like.

Jonathan Creswell would frequently pick her up in his car for no other reason but to beat her, she recalled.

‘I never felt fear like that’

Ms Lyle said one particular attack at the hands of Creswell in a wooded area near Castle Leslie in County 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.

“That was the worst by far and it would last for such a time and then he would just say: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, don’t go’ and then the cycle would start over again.

A bath full of bleach

Another incident Ms Lyle described vividly was when Jonathan Creswell threatened 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.”

Throughout the relationship with Jonathan Creswell she said she would do anything to try and “calm him down”, describing it as like going “into survival mode.”

Ms Lyle said no one deserves to be treated the way she was and has strongly urged anyone in an abusive relationship to speak out or seek help.

Abi Lyle competes all over the world in international dressage

Ms Lyle, who now has a successful career competing in international dressage, is hoping to be chosen to represent Ireland at the Paris Olympics in July.

She said she was heartbroken on learning of the death of Katie Simpson and sent her deepest sympathies to her family.

“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.

Katie Simpson, who was a talented showjumper from Tynan, County Armagh, died in hospital almost a week after an incident in Gortnessy Meadows, Lettershandoney, on August, 3 2020.

Speaking to BBC News NI before Creswell’s murder trial was halted, her family described her as a “brave, caring, funny” person who “lit up every room”.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this interview information about help and support is available on the BBC’s Action Line website.

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