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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 10:07 GMT
Teacher killer loses appeal bid
Graham Coutts
Musician Graham Coutts kept Jane Longhurst's dead body in storage
The man convicted of murdering Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst has lost his appeal against conviction but won a reduction in his sentence.

Graham Coutts, 36, of Waterloo Street, Hove, Sussex, but originally from Fife, was jailed for life last year.

At the appeal in December, his defence team argued a verdict of manslaughter should have been offered at the trial.

On Friday three judges at London's Court of Appeal said his 30-year minimum jail term should be cut to 26.

'Accident during sex'

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Creswell and Mr Justice Simon, ruled Coutts' murder conviction was safe.

However, the court said his case raised issues of "general public importance" fit for consideration by the House of Lords.

Miss Longhurst, a special needs teacher, was strangled with a pair of tights in March 2003.

Coutts kept her body in a storage unit for weeks before it was found badly burned on Wiggonholt Common in West Sussex.

Jane Longhurst
Jane Longhurst was a special needs teacher and musician in Brighton
At his trial in February last year, he admitted he had been with her when she died, but always denied murder, saying her death was an accident during consensual sex.

The claim it was wrong for the jury not to have been offered an alternative verdict of manslaughter, one of the reasons Coutts' legal team gave as grounds for his conviction being overturned, was opposed by the Crown.

John Kelsy-Fry, on behalf of the Crown, told the appeal court the case was presented as an "uncluttered" contest between murder and accident.

If the case had failed on this basis the defendant would deserved to be acquitted, he said.

'Justice done'

When Coutts was found guilty in his trial at Lewes Crown Court, he was given a life sentence with a recommended minimum term of 30 years.

Miss Longhurst, who was 31 when she was killed, was originally from Reading, Berkshire.

Commenting on the court's decision to throw out the conviction appeal, Miss Longhurst's mother Liz Longhurst said: "I am very relieved it has gone the way it has.

"I am delighted. I feel that justice has been done and has been seen to be done."

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16 Dec 04 |  Southern Counties
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04 Feb 04 |  Southern Counties

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