Ashley Kemp denies murdering Clair Armstrong with (inset) Grimsby Crown Court
A skydiving instructor strangled his girlfriend after their relationship unravelled when he was accused of rape, a court has heard. Ashley Kemp, 55, of Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire, claimed Clair Armstrong became “hysterical” over the allegation he had attempted to rape a teenage girl and he tried in vain to calm her down.
A mum-of-three, Ms Armstrong, 50, was also a skydiving instructor at The Drop Zone club in Hibaldstow and the owner of a beauty salon in the village of Messingham. She was found dead on a bed at her home.
Mr Kemp, who was found on a grass verge after his silver Nissan Qashqai careered off a road, claimed he decided to crash the vehicle into a tree.
When he was arrested on suspicion of murder, he asked: “Who have I murdered?”
He denies murdering Ms Armstrong at her home in Messingham on November 5 but admits manslaughter.
Prosecutor Richard Thyne KC told Grimsby Crown Court that in a police interview Kemp said his relationship with Ms Armstrong had deteriorated after he was accused of attempting to rape the teenage girl.
Mr Kemp told police that at about 10pm on November 5 he and Ms Armstrong were getting ready for bed when she began talking about the sexual allegation again.
He claimed she became hysterical, telling him she “could not do it anymore” and she wanted him to go.
Mr Kemp claimed he jumped out of bed to approach her and talk calmly, but she grabbed him and started hitting him so he grabbed her by the arms and headbutted her, Grimsby Live reports.
He claimed she hit him a number of times and he squeezed her throat as hard as he could until she stopped.
Mr Kemp said: “To be honest, I just snapped. It’s like red mist came over. I just – when she stopped – I thought that was it, that was her stopped.
“I didn’t realise it was gonna be her end, but I just, maybe I held on too long. I don’t know but I didn’t want her to start saying it again.”
He claimed he did not know how much time had gone by before he called the police, but he panicked and did not know what to do.
Mr Thyne said: “He had tried to cut himself with a knife and a razor blade but, ultimately, he decided to go out and drive his car into a tree.”
The court heard Mr Kemp telephoned Humberside Police at 12.41am on November 6, telling officers: “I’ve killed my girlfriend. We got into a fight and I ended up strangling her.”
“She is upstairs on the bed in the main bedroom. We just had an argument, that was all, and it just got heated. She just started thrashing out and I just reacted. I never react …. I pinned her down and just choked her.”
Police and paramedics went to Ms Armstrong’s home where she was found in a bedroom lying on her back on the bed in a partly-opened dressing gown.
Jurors heard there were blood stains on the collar and Ms Armstrong had injuries to the bridge of her nose and forehead.
Mr Thyne said: “There were also spots and drips of blood on the floor nearby… The prosecution case is that Ashley Kemp murdered Clair Armstrong.”
“Ashley Kemp accepts that he unlawfully killed Clair, by strangling her. However, he says that, when he did so, he did not intend to kill or to cause her really serious harm. He, therefore, says that his actions amount to manslaughter but not murder.”
The court heard how Mr Kemp and Ms Armstrong met at The Drop Zone and began their relationship in 2020.
But after the attempted rape allegation, Ms Armstrong told a friend she wanted space.
She also told a fellow skydiving instructor the relationship had become strained and she could imagine herself being single again.
The trial continues.