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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 17:13 GMT
Murder accused speaks of 'neck fetish'
Jane Longhurst
Jane Longhurst's body was found five weeks after she disappeared
A musician accused of killing a special needs teacher has told a court he has had a fetish for women's necks for 20 years.

Graham Coutts, 35, who is alleged to have strangled Jane Longhurst at his flat, was giving evidence for the first time at Lewes Crown Court.

He told the jury on Friday that Miss Longhurst, 31, from Brighton, died as a result of a tragic accident during consensual sex.

Responding to questions put to him by Jeremy Gold QC, defending, Mr Coutts said: "I suppose it's something that would be termed a fetish. I have a fetish for women's necks.

I don't know why I have this fetish
Graham Coutts

"I've had it for 20 years; since I was about 15 or 16. I cannot put my finger on just one thing about it.

"The neck is a sexual part of the body, a sexual part of the female body, an erogenous zone that is accentuated by necklaces or chokers or perfume.

"It's part of the body that is used for flirtation. I don't know why I have this fetish."

When asked about his former girlfriend Sandra Gates, with whom he shared a physical relationship from 1989 until 1996, he said they had participated in bondage games.

Graham Coutts
Graham Coutts denies murdering the special needs teacher

The part-time salesman and musician said he had also spoken to her of his interest in sexual asphyxiation or breath control play.

Mr Coutts also told the court about his relationship with Nicola Stainthorpe, a girlfriend of two years with whom he had taken part in breath control play about 100 times.

The court also heard about Mr Coutts' current partner, Lisa Stephens, who was pregnant with twins at the time of Miss Longhurst's death, and two other sexual partners he had been with briefly.

Mr Coutts also said he had been using the internet to look for images involving asphyxial sex and strangling for about eight years.

During his opening remarks to the jury of seven men and five women, Mr Gold said they would have to make a difficult and harrowing decision as to Mr Coutt's guilt or innocence.

The court has heard how he allegedly stored the teacher's body at a storage unit in Brighton after murdering her on 14 March 2003.

Her burning body was found on Wiggonholt Common, near Pulborough, five weeks later.

Mr Coutts, of Waterloo Street, Hove, denies murder.

The trial continues.

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