Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Wednesday, 4 July 2007 16:58 UK

'Pervert' strangled music teacher

Graham Coutts and Jane Longhurst
Graham Coutts murdered Jane Longhurst in March 2003

A man who had a "perverted interest" in strangled women has been found guilty of murdering a teacher in Sussex.

Graham Coutts, 39, of Waterloo Street, Hove, strangled Jane Longhurst with a pair of tights before keeping her body in a storage unit for a sexual thrill.

The body of Ms Longhurst, 31, from Reading, Berkshire, was later burned at a beauty spot by Coutts.

Judge Richard Hone said he was adjourning sentence until Thursday so he could put emotion to one side.

Coutts was found guilty at a retrial after a previous murder conviction in 2004 was quashed on appeal.

This case has been one of the most testing ones that, in my experience, a jury has had to try
Judge Richard Hone

Jurors at the Old Bailey found him guilty, by an 11 to one majority, after 13 hours of deliberations.

Ms Longhurst's relatives threw their arms in the air and there were cheers from the public gallery where her mother Liz, 76, was sitting, when the verdict was read out.

Outside the Old Bailey Mrs Longhurst welcomed the verdict but the appeal and retrial had taken a "considerable toll" on the family.

She said: "I trust that we will now be able to resume our lives, safe in the knowledge that Jane's reputation is unsullied and we can remember her as the lovely person she was - gifted, caring and bringing happiness to all."

Coutts killed her in March 2003 to satisfy a "long-standing and perverted interest" in the strangling to death of women, the Old Bailey had been told.

Murderous thoughts

The jury rejected his claims that Ms Longhurst's death was the result of a tragic accident.

Philip Katz QC, prosecuting, said Coutts repeatedly visited her body at the storage unit where it was kept afterwards for a "sexual thrill".

He also said Coutts had been looking at "horrific" pornographic images the day before Ms Longhurst was killed.

A former partner of Coutts told the court he had confessed to having murderous thoughts about women.

"He actually said 'I have the feeling that I am going to murder a woman. I could strangle and murder a woman,'" she said.

Judge Richard Hone said: "This case has been one of the most testing ones that, in my experience, a jury has had to try."

'Ruthless killer'

Det Insp Chris Standard said: "Graham Coutts has been convicted of murder for the second time in the face of overwhelming and compelling evidence.

"He is a ruthless killer who presents a great danger to women.

"Our thoughts remain with Jane's mother and sister, and also Jane's partner Malcolm, who have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout two trials and a very lengthy, very disheartening appeal process."

He added: "This re-conviction should signal the end of Graham Coutt's mission to escape justice and also put an end to the misery and distress he has continued to heap upon Jane's family and loved ones."

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Jane's mother reacts to the conviction

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