Man in court over scalp murder

A man accused of the murder of a woman whose scalp and hair were found on the A146 in Beccles appeared in court yesterday, just hours after arriving in this country from Thailand.

A man accused of the murder of a mother whose scalp and hair were found on a main road close to the Suffolk-Norfolk border appeared in court yesterday, just hours after arriving in the UK from Thailand.

Christopher Caunter, 35, was arrested in the Asian country

last June on suspicion of

killing his girlfriend, Deborah Townsend.

The Thai authorities agreed to his extradition in September, but it was not until late on Wednesday that he was put on a plane to Britain. He arrived back at Heathrow airport yesterday morning accompanied by British police officers.

Caunter was taken to Ipswich police station and was formally charged with the murder of

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35-year-old Ms Townsend.

Caunter, of South Avenue, Hullbridge, Essex, appeared in the dock yesterday afternoon

at South-East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, Ipswich, where he spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

He was dressed in a light blue denim shirt and khaki combat-style trousers for the four-minute hearing.

Caunter is alleged to have murdered his girlfriend in July, 2005 at or near Beccles.

The police investigation started after a motorist reported seeing blood on the A146 Norwich to Lowestoft road at Beccles, close to the Morrisons supermarket roundabout, on July 15, 2005.

It proved to be scalp tissue and hair, and a search was launched for a body.

This was found on July 16 in a Land Rover Discovery in the grounds of Newland Hall, near Chelmsford.

Ms Townsend had died of head injuries on what was also the

day she became a grandmother.

Deborah Townsend was a carer from East Ham, London, who was also known as Deborah Hamilton. She had two daughters, aged 18 and 15, and an eight-year-old son. Before her death she had been living in Bromley, south-east London.

In court yesterday, Ian Pells, prosecuting, asked the magistrates to send the case to crown court.

Caunter, who was represented by Neil Saunders, was remanded in custody to appear at Ipswich Crown Court on May 4 for a plea and case management hearing.

Robert Caunter, 37, Michael Briggs, 39, both from Barking, Essex, and 37-year-old Joseph Brown, from Romford, Essex, have all been charged with assisting an offender in relation to the inquiry.

They have denied the charge and are scheduled to stand trial at Ipswich Crown Court in October.