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Violent killer must serve life sentence

PUBLISHED: 09:14 22 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 03 July 2010

A building boss who killed his fiancée by driving over her head in a Land Rover and then fled the country remained behind bars last night after he lost a legal bid to overturn his murder conviction.

A building boss who killed his fiancée by driving over her head in a Land Rover and then fled the country remained behind bars last night after he lost a legal bid to overturn his murder conviction.

Christopher Caunter was jailed for life in November 2008 after he was found guilty of killing Deborah Townsend, 35, on the A146 near Beccles in July 2005 after an argument.

A murder hunt was launched after clumps of Miss Townsend's scalp and hair were found in a lay by on the A146.

After the murder Caunter fled to France with £20,000 and then Thailand where he was extradited from in 2007.

Yesterday Caunter, 37, was told that he must serve the rest of his 21 year minimum life sentence after the Appeal Court rejected his leave to seek an appeal against his conviction.

Caunter, from Hullbridge, Essex, had claimed that the judge at his trial - Judge John Devaux - should have barred evidence of his previous violent character, including torture allegations which led to a conviction for assault.

However the Appeal Court said that the evidence was “plainly admissible” as it showed his tendency to extreme violence in response to trivial incidents - such as the row he had with Miss Townsend, who was from London.

During the 2008 trial jurors heard that Caunter, who stood at 6ft 6in and weighed 18 stone, had a temper like a volcano exploding.

The trial was told the couple had driven to Lowestoft after Caunter was tipped off that his Essex building business was being raided by the Inland Revenue.

The pair had spent the evening of July 14 2005 drinking heavily in the Norfolk Arms pub and started to row as they drove towards Norwich early next morning.

After Miss Townsend got out off the hired Land Rover, Caunter mowed her down and then reversed over her head.

Caunter had claimed that Miss Townsend had jumped out of the moving Land Rover.

He then picked up his girlfriend's body and put it in the passenger seat and drove to a lay by where he transferred the corpse to the boot.

Caunter then drove to a fishing lake near Chelmsford where he cleaned blood off the outside of the vehicle and covered the body with towels and shirts.

He then took £20,000 in cash and fled to France and then Thailand.

Also appearing at the Appeal Court was Caunter's brother Robert Caunter, 40 of Barking, who also unsuccessfully sought leave to appeal both his conviction for assisting an offender and three year jail sentence.

Robert Caunter had helped his brother cover up the murder by telling police Miss Townsend had jumped from the Land Rover and had delayed reporting her death to the police.

When Christopher Caunter was jailed for life in 2008 Miss Townsend's uncle Alan Phillips told the EDP: “We hope that after all the efforts that have been made to convict Christopher Caunter… that he finds his years of incarceration long, hard and painful to endure.”

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