Murder trial jury fails to reach verdict

The jury in the trial of a businessman accused of murdering his fiancée near Beccles has been dismissed after failing to reach a verdict.After deliberating for more than 28 hours, the jury at Ipswich Crown Court could not decide yesterday whether Christopher Caunter, 35, of Hullbridge, Essex, was guilty of murdering fiancée Deborah Townsend.

The jury in the trial of a businessman accused of murdering his fiancée near Beccles has been dismissed after failing to reach a verdict.

After deliberating for more than 28 hours, the jury at Ipswich Crown Court could not decide yesterday whether Christopher Caunter, 35, of Hullbridge, Essex, was guilty of murdering fiancée Deborah Townsend.

Judge John Devaux dismissed the jury, who had been out for more than a week.

It was alleged during the eight week trial that Christopher Caunter killed Miss Townsend by reversing his Land Rover over her head on the Beccles bypass, where a piece of her skull, scalp and hair was found in the morning of July 15 2005.

Her body was later found in the boot of the car at Newland Hall, near Chelmsford. Christopher Caunter then fled to Thailand, from where he was extradited back to the UK in April this year.

Christopher Caunter denies murdering mother-of-three Miss Townsend, 35, and told the court that she jumped from the car while he was driving to Beccles along the A146 after an argument in a pub in Lowestoft. The couple were in East Anglia because Christopher Caunter's labouring business in Essex had been raided by the Inland Revenue.

Most Read

Christopher Caunter told the court that he was looking for a hospital when Miss Townsend died in his car. He said he then called his brother Robert Caunter for help before putting the body in the boot of his car and fleeing the country the next day.

The jury also failed to return verdicts on Robert Caunter, 38, of Eldred Road, Barking, and Joseph Brown, 38, of Mildmay Road, Romford, who both deny assisting a murderer. Mr Brown was cleared by the jury last week of helping Christopher Caunter to evade prosecution by the Inland Revenue.

Michael Briggs, 40, of Suffolk Road, Barking, was also cleared last week of assisting a murderer.

He will be sentenced on January 4 for assisting Christopher Caunter in evading the Inland Revenue, to which he has pleaded guilty.

Christopher Caunter will remain in custody and Robert Caunter and Mr Brown will stay on police bail until a retrial at Ipswich Crown Court next year. Judge Devaux yesterday proposed a date of September 7 2008 for the trial.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter