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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 23:21 GMT
Man guilty of teacher murder
Jane Longhurst
Coutts had claimed Jane died during consensual sex
A musician accused of strangling a special needs teacher to satisfy a "bizarre and macabre fantasy" has been found guilty of her murder.

Graham Coutts, 35, of Waterloo Street, Hove, had denied murdering Jane Longhurst, 31, in March last year.

But the jury at Lewes Crown Court ruled Coutts strangled Miss Longhurst for his own sexual gratification.

Judge Richard Brown sentenced Coutts to life imprisonment ordering that he must serve a minimum of 30 years.

'Sordid and evil fantasies'

Jailing Coutts, Judge Brown said: "Everything that this court has heard about Jane Longhurst shows her to have been the sort of person whose life enriched all those who came into contact with her.

"Her undoubted love of her partner, her music and her life, screamed out of every page of the evidence I have heard in this case.

Graham Coutts
Graham Coutts has admitted a 'neck fetish'
"In seeking perverted sexual gratification by way of your sordid and evil fantasies, you have taken her life and devastated the lives of those she loved and of those who loved her.

"By persisting in your denials, you have put those loved ones through the ordeal of this courtroom and have forced them to relive the last moments of her life and the unbelievable degradation of her body.

"You have shown not one jot of remorse."

As Coutts was taken to the cells Miss Longhurst's family shouted "pig", "pervert" and "yes".

After the trial, Miss Longhurst's boyfriend Malcolm Sentance said it was hard watching the evidence and "swallowing his tongue" in court.

Mr Sentance said: "I am pleased at the result but it does not bring Jane back.

"We have to go home now but when you are all gone we have to get on with our lives without this lovely person and that is something we have to live with."

Jane's mother Liz Longhurst said Coutts was vile and disgusting.

She also called for some pornographic internet sites to be shut down.

The court had heard that Coutts visited websites to satisfy his sexual fantasies.

'Harrowing evidence'

Mrs Longhurst, 72, fought back tears, saying: "I feel pressure should be brought to bear on internet service providers to close down or filter out these pornographic sites, so that people like Jane's killer may no longer feed their sick imaginations and do harm to others."

Liz Longhurst, mother of Jane
The lies that have been told by the defendant have added to the pain that we have already suffered
Liz Longhurst

Mrs Longhurst, who sat in court for all 13 days of the trial, described her daughter as a beautiful person who was loved by everybody who knew her.

She said: "Today is a day of relief for us all. We have had one of the most difficult years that we have had to endure.

"The last three weeks have been an extremely difficult time for us. The evidence we have heard has been harrowing and the lies that have been told by the defendant have added to the pain that we have already suffered."

Coutts, who is originally from Leven, Fife, in Scotland, had admitted hiding Miss Longhurst's body at a Brighton storage centre but said her death was an accident.

But the jury believed the prosecution's argument that Coutts killed the teacher for his own sexual gratification.

The prosecution outlined during the case how Coutts had kept her body for over a month - first in a shed and then at the Big Yellow Storage Unit.

He was caught on camera moving the body after staff at the centre noticed a smell.

Coutts was also caught on camera buying petrol from a garage on 19 April.

The special needs teacher's body was found alight later that day in woodland in West Sussex.

Speaking outside the court a Sussex Police spokesman paid tribute to Miss Longhurst's family and said a "dangerous man has been put away".

The BBC's Robert Hall
"The court heard that Coutts was a sexual fantasist"

Family's relief at murder verdict
04 Feb 04  |  Southern Counties
Phone call to a killer
04 Feb 04  |  Southern Counties
Jury decides on teacher's death
03 Feb 04  |  Southern Counties
Teacher's death 'was no accident'
29 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties
Teacher 'died in seconds'
28 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties
Teacher 'had tried sex games'
27 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties
Murder accused speaks of 'neck fetish'
23 Jan 04  |  Southern Counties

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