‘Besotted’ teenager who helped her boyfriend, 24, clean up after he tortured and killed his transgender lover in a hotel sex and drugs binge is spared jail
- Natalia Darkowska, 18, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice
- After university dropout Jesse McDonald, 25, killed Naomi Hersi in March
- Darkowska had cleaned up the blood as Ms Hersi’s body lay in the bathroom
- She was given a suspended jail sentence of two years at the Old Bailey today
Natalia Darkowska (pictured), 18, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was handed a suspended jail sentence of two years in what were described as exceptional circumstances at the Old Bailey today
A ‘besotted’ teenager who helped her boyfriend clean up after he murdered a transgender woman during a sex and drugs binge has avoided jail.
Natalia Darkowska, 18, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice after university dropout Jesse McDonald, 25, killed Naomi Hersi in March.
Their Old Bailey trial had heard how former A grade student and tennis ace McDonald contacted 36-year-old Ms Hersi through dating website Fabswingers.com.
After days together, McDonald drugged and stabbed the hospitality worker to death with a knife and a broken bottle at a hotel near Heathrow Airport where he was living.
The intelligent and well-spoken defendant then spun a web of lies to his mother and called on his girlfriend to help.
On Friday March 16, McDonald had texted his girlfriend saying that he had been an ‘idiot’ and that he had ‘not cheated’ but had ‘got addicted to a nasty drug’ that he claimed he had never had before.
He continued to message Darkowska, saying he had ‘got a big drug dealer lying across my floor right now’ who ‘won’t wake up’.
Claiming not to have slept in three or four days and that he had a knife held to his throat by Ms Hersi, McDonald gave the impression that he was in danger.
Once she arrived, Darkowska set about cleaning up the blood as Ms Hersi’s body lay in the bathroom.
McDonald (left) murdered Ms Hersi and then enlisted his girlfriend Darkowska (right) to help him cover up the killing
This is the moment McDonald was arrested after he murdered Ms Hersi during a four-day drug binge
The defendants left around eight hours later and took a taxi to a hotel in Teddington, with McDonald fearing police were closing in.
Police found the victim lying half-naked, partly covered by a rug on the small bathroom floor and later tracked down the defendants.
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At an earlier hearing, McDonald was jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years for murder and perverting the course of justice.
McDonald had enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Scaynes Hill, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, excelling as a musician and hoping to become a tennis professional until injury cut short his fledgling career.
McDonald stabbed Ms Hersi (pictured) 58 times including with a knife and a broken bottle at a hotel near Heathrow Airport where he was living
Top ‘A’ level grades gained him a place at the London School of Economics where he claimed he made a small fortune trading in Bitcoin.
But he had also began using cannabis, cocaine and steroids and was dealing in drugs himself when he dropped out of university.
His family eventually threw him out of the house and by the time he killed Ms Hersi he was overdrawn at the bank, living in the Heathrow Palace Hotel in Hounslow and relying on handouts from his mother.
McDonald had an insatiable sex drive and described himself as a ‘sex pest’ who would trawl websites and apps looking for casual partners.
He had met with at least 20 women on various sites, in addition to several men and transgender people.
On the day before he met up with Ms Hersi he said he had enjoyed a three hour romp with Ms Darkowska, but confessed he was ‘still horny’ and could not resist the lure of gay sex.
McDonald and his girlfriend are caught on CCTV checking into a hotel after attempting to cover up the murder
Police officers ask about McDonald and Darkowska at the front desk of the hotel as the fugitives can be seen making their way out of the exit
The boyfriend and girlfriend leave the hotel after police arrived asking staff where they were
He contacted Ms Hersi on the swingers site Fabswingers.com hours after leaving his girlfriend at her Trowbridge home on March 12 and was invited to her one bedroomed flat in Guardhouse Way, Mill Hill.
Ms Hersi was an openly trans-woman to friends and internet lovers, but lived a double life and to her large Somali family she was still ‘a much loved son.’
For the next three days McDonald and Ms Hersi would be together at the flat having sex and taking drugs, stopping only to order pizza and go on shopping trips to the supermarket for supplies.
He was so engrossed that he ignored the plaintive messages from his girlfriend, who was desperately worried and suspected he may have gone off with a man as he had done before.
The court heard that Ms Hersi (pictured) was an openly transgender woman, although to her family, who are originally from Somalia, she remained a much-loved son
McDonald and Ms Hersi then drove to went back to McDonald’s hotel room in his ‘3’ series ‘M’ BMW probably because he had more drugs there.
But at some stage an argument flared and McDonald smashed a beer bottle over Ms Hersi’s head and stabbed her with a shard of glass.
He did the same with a second bottle before turning on her with the carving knife he used to chop up the hashish he sold.
McDonald then called his girlfriend to the scene to help him clear up the room, which had bloodstains all over the walls and floor.
He told the jury that after Ms Hersi died he had to ‘wade though blood’ on the carpet.
The couple left the room and booked a taxi at reception, saying they were they were going to McDonald’s.
They spent the night together at another hotel and then McDonald called the owner Aduham Nawil the next morning, saying there had been a fight in the room and offering his Porsche watch if he cleaned it up.
But the owner called the police and they found the body of Ms Hersi lying semi naked in the bathroom, with her eyes still open.
The knife used to kill her was in the bottom of the shower tray. It had been used with such force than the top of the blade had broken off.
Jesse McDonald ignored texts from his girlfriend Natalia Darkowska (pictured left and right) as he went on a three day drug-filled sex binge Hersi Mohamed Hersi
In mitigation for Darkowska, Jemma Levinson said she had been a ‘model student’ who was ‘studious and respectful’ and had been ‘misled and lied to’ by McDonald.
The court heard the offence was ‘totally out of character’ and she was ‘besotted’ with McDonald.
The lawyer said: ‘She still does believe the account she was given by Mr McDonald. This is clearly the case where whatever Ms Darkowska did she did in the belief and understanding that she was helping someone she loved but somebody she believed was the victim of the most serious offences.’
McDonald contacted his girlfriend Natalia Darkowska (pictured outside court at an earlier hearing), who joined him in the attempted clean-up
She added that she believed McDonald had been through a ‘terrible ordeal’ and was an ‘innocent man’.
Ms Levinson said Darkowska had been ‘under the spell’ of her boyfriend, who had been taken in by her family as a ‘trusted member’.
As a result of the trial, she had a ‘breakdown’, the court was told.
Darkowska, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was handed a suspended jail sentence of two years in what were described as exceptional circumstances.
She was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Mark Dennis QC said McDonald was a ‘dominant’ character and Darkowska had become ‘entranced by him’.
The judge said McDonald was ‘deeply flawed’ and capable of misleading.
While she may have set off to lend emotional support, the judge rejected the suggestion she never saw the body.
He told her: ‘One of your references refers to this being a once-in-a-lifetime mistake. Make sure it is.’
Darkowska was handed a two-year prison term, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work as well as 30 days’ rehabilitation activity requirement within the next 12 months.
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