Spilled drink led to hurried exit

A man who killed his fiancée by running over her head became angry with her after she spilled a drink on him, a court heard yesterday.Christopher Caunter and Deborah Townsend were in the Norfolk pub, Lowestoft, where they fled after a tax probe into his labouring business.

A man who killed his fiancée by running over her head became angry with her after she spilled a drink on him, a court heard yesterday.

Christopher Caunter and Deborah Townsend were in the Norfolk pub, Lowestoft, where they fled after a tax probe into his labouring business. They both left the pub in his Land Rover Discovery on July 14 2005. Shortly afterwards she died of “appalling injuries” and a piece of her skull, scalp and hair were found on the road at the A146 Beccles bypass.

Caunter, 35, of South Avenue, Hullbridge, Essex, denies murder. Also on trial are his brother Robert, 38, of Eldre Road, Barking, and friends Joseph Brown, 38, of Mildmay Road, Romford, and Michael Briggs, 40, of Suffolk Road, Barking. They deny assisting a murderer and helping him to avoid prosecution for deceiving the Inland Revenue.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that after the tax raid Caunter and Miss Townsend were in the Norfolk pub where they met a friend of Caunter's with his girlfriend. Miss Townsend told her they were planning to leave for Thailand - which annoyed Caunter. Miss Townsend, a 35-year-old mother of three, seemed distressed and went to the car, followed by Caunter. They came back and arranged to stay in the spare room at the barmaid's flat. Both were the worse for wear by this point.

Karim Khalil QC, prosecuting, said: “It seemed as if drink had been spilled over Christopher Caunter. It wasn't clear whether it was spilled or if she had thrown it over him but it didn't please him one bit. He returned the keys and said they wouldn't be staying in the flat after all and they were seen leaving.

“I cannot tell you of any eye witnesses to what then happened. The only people present were Deborah, who cannot speak for herself, and Christopher Caunter, who killed her.”

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But at 8am passersby David and Christine Perring decided to stop for breakfast at Morrison's in Beccles during a journey between Norwich and Lowestoft. They parked in the layby on the Suffolk side of the bridge and found “a clump of auburn hair” on the verge. Mr Khalil said: “There were streaks of blood in the hair. He discovered the hair was attached to a piece of skull.” He dialled 999 and a murder investigation began.

He said that Robert Caunter, who handed himself into police on July 16 after helping his brother clean up the Land Rover, told police his brother rang him and said Deborah had jumped out of the car at 50mph. He said he heard her moaning in the background.

Caunter fled to Thailand and claimed while he was there that Miss Townsend jumped out of the moving car after a row. He went back and found her lying in the road, put her in the passenger seat, and was driving round looking for a hospital when she died.

But Mr Khalil said her head was crushed as if it had been run over. Other injuries also suggested she had not jumped out of a moving car. He said she would have died instantly from the head injury, and could not have been moaning in the car.

He added: “Christopher Caunter's assertion is he had an accident. We say this is simply untrue. He killed his fiancée. Can it be that someone who has had a dreadful accident drives from where it happened all the way down to meet his brother in Redbridge, back up to Newland Hall near Chelmsford, effectively dumping the body of his fiancée there in the boot of the car? This is way beyond something that can be explained by panic. This is all the hallmarks of someone getting rid so he can flee the country.”

The case continues.

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