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Jurors told of woman's death in layby

PUBLISHED: 11:06 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 07:42 01 August 2010

A BUSINESSMAN described as having a temper like a "volcano exploding" killed his girlfriend by running over her in a Land Rover, then reversing over her head, a court heard yesterday.

A BUSINESSMAN described as having a temper like a “volcano exploding” killed his girlfriend by running over her in a Land Rover, then reversing over her head, a court heard yesterday.

The jury at Ipswich Crown Court was told that Christopher Caunter, 36, murdered Deborah Townsend near a layby on the A146 in Beccles, leaving part of her scalp and clumps of hair near a large pool of blood in the road before driving off with her body in the seat next to him.

Caunter, of South Avenue, in Hullbridge, Essex, denies murder.

Karim Khalil, prosecuting, told the court that Caunter and his fiancée Deborah Townsend, who was 35, fled their home in Bromley when they found out the Inland Revenue had raided Caunter's building company headquarters as part of investigation into tax irregularities.

On Thursday, July 14, 2005, the couple, who had been engaged for a month and together for six months, left in the company's rented Land Rover and met friends at The Norfolk pub in Lowestoft.

Mr Khalil said that the pair had a row and left the pub at about 1am, and that Miss Townsend was last seen alive walking towards the Land Rover with her fiancée.

Mr Khalil said: “It seems she must have got out of that Land Rover either voluntarily or otherwise and it seems most likely that having got out of the vehicle he drove into Deborah from behind, knocking her to the floor, injuring her legs in such a way that she could not then walk off. He then reversed the Land Rover over her head.” He said she was killed instantly.

Mr Khalil alleged that Caunter put the body in the passenger seat and drove towards London, while making a series of phone calls to his brother Robert, 39.

The court heard that the brothers went to Newlands Hall near Chelmsford, where Christopher Caunter cleaned blood from the outside of the vehicle using cloths his brother had provided. Miss Townsend's body was later found slumped in the boot of the Land Rover.

The jury also heard that Robert Caunter collected a carrier bag which contained £25,000 and to give to his brother to help his escape, and that Christopher Caunter's friend Michael Briggs drove him to Portsmouth where he caught the ferry to France, and bought a e4,500 business-class seat in cash to Bangkok for the following day. Caunter was later extradited.

Mr Khalil told the seven men and five women jurors that Caunter, who is 6ft 6in and 18 stone, had a violent temper, saying: “His temper may best be described as akin to a volcano exploding.”

He also said that Miss Townsend's eldest daughter Sarah had warned her mother that Caunter would “marry her to bury her”.

Joseph Brown, 39, from Midmay Road in Romford, and Robert Caunter, from Elore Road in Barking, deny assisting an offender.

Jurors were told that the hearing was a retrial. Last November another jury failed to reach verdicts.

The case continues.

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