Man from Sussex convicted of murdering transgender woman he met online

Jesse McDonald, 25, and Natalia Darkowska, 18. Photo supplied by Met Police
Jesse McDonald, 25, and Natalia Darkowska, 18. Photo supplied by Met Police

A man from Sussex has been found guilty of murdering a transgender woman he met online, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said.

Jesse McDonald, 25, was found guilty at the Old Bailey on Friday, of murdering 36-year-old Naomi Hersi, a transgender woman from north London, who was found with multiple stab wounds at the Heathrow Palace Hotel in Cranford, on Sunday, March 18.

He is a cold and calculated killer who involved his girlfriend in attempting to clear up the mess that he had made. I am very pleased the jury saw through his tissue of lies.

Detective Inspector Tom Dahri, of the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command

McDonald was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice, following a trial at the Old Bailey, which concluded on Friday, the CPS said.

The 25-year-old grew up in Haywards Heath, according to the BBC, and was born in Brighton.

The CPS said that on Monday, March 12, McDonald, of Haslemere Avenue, Hounslow, messaged Ms Hersi behind his girlfriend’s back after seeing her profile on fabswingers.com. They had a seven-minute phone conversation where he admitted to looking for a sexual encounter with her. This led to him driving to her address in Mill Hill, where they spent three days together taking drugs and having sex from the early hours of Tuesday, March 13, according to the CPS.

During this time, McDonald’s girlfriend, Natalia Darkowska, 18, originally from Poland, who was also convicted of perverting the course of justice in the same trial, had attempted to call and message him, which he ignored, the Metropolitan Police said.

Later in the afternoon, McDonald replied saying: “I’m sorry all ok. I’ll call u later and explain x”, before going shopping with Ms Hersi.

McDonald and Ms Hersi arrived at McDonald’s address in Hounslow at 8.40pm on Thursday, March 15, which was the last time Ms Hersi was seen alive, the Met Police said.

On Friday, March 16, at 1am, McDonald texted girlfriend, Darkowska, saying he had ‘been a […] idiot’ and that he had ‘not cheated’ but had ‘got addicted to a nasty drug’ that he claimed he’d never had before.

He continued to message her saying: ‘got a big drug dealer … lying across my floor right now … won’t wake up’, the Met Police said.

Claiming not to have slept in three to four days and that he had had a knife held to his throat at times by Ms Hersi, McDonald confessed to taking methamphetamine and crystal meth, and gave the impression that he was in danger, the Met Police said. He also claimed he had been given the drug GHB.

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On Saturday, March 17, Darkowska arrived at McDonald’s address, where Ms Hersi’s badly wounded body was found in the en-suite bathroom, according to the Met Police.

Darkowska helped clean up the room and the pair made their way to another hotel in Teddington, where they were tracked down by phone signal and arrested the next day.

During the time both suspects had been cleaning, McDonald phoned his mum and told her he had gone to meet somebody who did not turn out to be who he was expecting to meet. He said he could not remember everything that had happened but that he had been chained up for days, drugged with GHB and repeatedly raped, the Met Police said.

He told her he had escaped from them by leaving with one of the group who pretended to be very feminine but was actually very violent and would now not leave his room. He also described confronting Ms Hersi and claimed she grabbed him around the throat tightly before glancing at a pillow, the Met Police said. Thinking she was going to smother him with the pillow, he said he hit her over the head with a bottle cutting her.

He claimed he was ‘fighting for his life’ for six hours during which he picked up a knife and repeatedly stabbed Ms Hersi, killing her. After the conversation, his mum called the police, the Met Police said.

Detective Inspector Tom Dahri, of the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “From day one of this murder, McDonald has spun lie after lie and tarnished the name of the victim by calling her the vilest names in front of her family.

“McDonald completely fabricated that he was kept against his will at Naomi’s address and there was no evidence whatsoever that he had been raped by her. This was simply smoke and mirrors to portray himself as a victim. He is a cold and calculated killer who involved his girlfriend in attempting to clear up the mess that he had made. I am very pleased the jury saw through his tissue of lies.

“Naomi will be very much missed by all who knew her, but most especially by her family. The investigation team would like to thank our partners from the LGBT communities for their support and guidance during this investigation.

“Finally, the past few months have been extremely difficult for the Naomi’s family who have had to hear some very painful details about the murder. The loss of a loving child has had a devastating impact on the victim’s parents and siblings who are still struggling to come to terms with their loss. I hope that today’s conviction brings them a measure of comfort.”

Angela Moriarty, from the CPS, said: “This encounter between two strangers who had consumed a quantity of drugs, led to the tragic death of Naomi Hersi.

“McDonald claimed he inflicted the fatal stab wounds in self-defence but the prosecution was able to prove to the jury that this was not the case, and McDonald had willingly spent days with the victim – even going shopping to Sainsbury’s and Tesco stores together.

“The defendant also confessed to the murder while on the phone to the owner of the Heathrow Palace Hotel, telling him he would give him his designer Porsche watch if he cleaned up the bloodied room.

“Darkowska was also complicit in trying to cover up this murder and supported McDonald by going out to buy cleaning products including rubber gloves and returning with these in an attempt to remove items and clean the room.

“I hope this conviction provides some comfort to Ms Hersi’s family and friends.”

McDonald is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey this Thursday (November 1), the Met Police said. Darkowska is due to be sentenced the following day.