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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 21:30 GMT
Defendant 'wanted to choke lovers'
Jane Longhurst
Jane Longhurst's body was found five weeks after she disappeared
A musician accused of strangling a special needs school teacher wanted to throttle two former lovers, a court has heard.

Graham Coutts, 35, of Waterloo Street, Hove, has denied murdering 31-year-old Jane Longhurst, from Brighton, between 14 March and 19 April, 2003.

He is alleged to have strangled her and then stored the body in a cardboard box to satisfy his "bizarre and macabre sexual fantasy".

During the trial at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday, evidence was heard from former girlfriends.

'Adventurous' relationship

Both spoke from behind a screen as they described how Mr Coutts liked to put his hands around their throats during sex.

One lover described how the couple's sexual relationship began normally but later became "adventurous", involving acts of breath control.

However, she said that she never allowed him to cause her to fall unconscious.

"At the time I was in love with him, and I wanted to make him happy," she said.

During cross examination from the defence, she was asked if she had become a "willing and eager participant" in breath control play.

She replied: "I never liked it. I think I enjoyed the effects it had on him."

The second girlfriend told the court how Mr Coutts sometimes put a pillow around her throat, and how he initiated the practice but would stop when asked.

She added that he would become particularly aroused when she was upset or distressed.

Earlier, pathologist Vesna Djurovic told the jury of five women and seven men that when Miss Longhurst's body was found at a secluded woodland bird sanctuary in Pulborough, West Sussex, a pair of tights were tightly fastened around her neck.

She said Mr Coutts, who is accused of strangling the 31-year-old teacher, would have known something was wrong up to two minutes before she died.

She explained Miss Longhurst could have been unconscious within eight to 10 seconds, and would probably have bled from her nose and mouth.

During questioning by Jeremy Gold QC, for the defence, she said it was possible the ligature could have accidentally hit vital pressure points on the neck, causing heart failure.

But she said: "I do not think that is likely in these circumstances."

The case was adjourned until Monday.

Teacher murder was 'macabre sex act'
14 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties
Teacher's family arrive for trial
14 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties

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