Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Monday, 25 June 2007 17:22 UK

Teacher death knot shown to court

Graham Coutts
Graham Coutts hid Jane Longhurst's body in a storage unit

A man accused of murdering Brighton schoolteacher Jane Longhurst in March 2003 has demonstrated to a jury how he tied a pair of tights around her neck.

Graham Coutts, 39, of Waterloo Street, Hove, East Sussex, denies murder and told his retrial at the Old Bailey that he thought what he was doing was safe.

He claims the death of Miss Longhurst, 31, originally from Reading, Berkshire, was an accident during consensual sex.

The prosecution alleges Mr Coutts had a fetish for dead bodies.

On Monday, during cross-examination by Philip Katz, QC, prosecuting, he was asked to demonstrate what happened.

There is nothing sexual about a dead body
Graham Coutts

Using a stuffed dummy, Mr Coutts wrapped a pair of beige tights twice around its neck and tied a knot at the back.

Pulling on the legs, Coutts said: "These tights are shorter."

Mr Katz replied that they were a standard size, before asking him why he wrapped them round twice.

Coutts replied it was his "ritual", and that he had done it on hundreds of occasions and thought it was safe.

He then told the court he had hidden the body of Miss Longhurst in a garden shed before transferring it to a box in a storage unit.

He had then visited the body to check if it was still there, he told the jury.

When asked by Mr Katz if this was for a sexual thrill, Mr Coutts replied: "There is nothing sexual about a dead body."

Jane Longhurst
Jane Longhurst was a special needs teacher and musician in Brighton

Miss Longhurst's body was discovered after he took it to a secluded spot and set fire to it, the court heard.

Mr Coutts has admitted during his evidence he had dreams about having sex with women in which he would be "tightening something round her neck" since the age of 15.

He also went to see a psychiatrist after having "unusual dreams" about following women home.

"I was worried that my dreams might lead me to rape and murder," he added.

He also admitted accessing websites featuring images of men overpowering women by using a ligature but said he was not "turned on" by the idea of strangling women to death.

Mr Coutts has also told the court that on the day of Miss Longhurst's death he had been to her house to pick her up and go swimming, but she seemed distressed about something and he invited her to his home for a cup of tea.

The trial continues.



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