Strangling-case defendant told police 'I am not violent'

A MAN accused of murdering his former girlfriend by compressing her neck and strangling her told police officers he did not have "a violent bone" in his body.

Nigel Pickard said he had gone to the home of Laura Smith in Scarborough to try to "smooth out" problems between them and sort out maintenance for their baby daughter, but grabbed her in anger and frustration at her cool attitude towards him.

He had her in a headlock and as she struggled against him they ended up falling on to the floor in the lounge.

He said he might also have gripped her with his hand on her throat until he heard their baby daughter crying and stopped.

A jury at Leeds Crown Court has heard police and paramedics who were called to the house in Southwold Rise, Eastfield, in Scarborough, tried to resuscitate Miss Smith and managed to get a pulse but she was not breathing on her own.

She was taken to Scarborough Hospital but died the next day July 12.

Detective Constable Nigel Pepper told the court Pickard said in interview that day: "I don't have a violent bone in my body and how it happened yesterday I can't get my head round it."

Pickard, 45, a driving instructor of Filey Road, Scarborough, denies murdering Miss Smith, 29, a hairdresser.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper said Miss Smith died from brain damage as a result of oxygen starvation when her breathing and heart stopped due to pressure on the neck.

Internal bruising in the neck was consistent with her being held in a forceful headlock with her neck being squeezed heavily within the arm.

He also found bruising on the neck and jaw angle suggestive of a grip with fingertips.

Dr Cooper told the jury Miss Smith also had a number of other bruises on her body including the shoulders, elbows, arms, knees and legs which supported a "significant and violent struggle," with her coming into contact with furniture, the walls or floor.

Under cross-examination by Simon Reevell, defending Pickard, he agreed it was possible the headlock pressure might have lasted less than 30 seconds but said in view of the severity of the internal bruising and the pinpoint burst blood vessels found he would have anticipated it had lasted longer.

After a question from a juror asking if Pickard had started some first aid treatment quicker the outcome would have differed, Dr Cooper said he did not know but generally the sooner treatment started the better.

The trial continues.