Littlehampton man found guilty of murdering his fiancée at Seaford camping site

A former police station cleaner faces life in prison after killing his fiancée on a camping weekend in a fit of anger.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 2:35 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 3:35 pm
Christopher Cole arrives at Lewes Crown Court

Christopher Cole, 31, of Clun Road, Wick, Littlehampton, has been convicted of the murder of Sarah Clayton, 21, at Lewes Crown Court.

Ms Clayton was found dead at the Buckle campsite in Seaford in May, 2018, after other campers heard choking noises after Cole shouted: “If you don’t shut up, I will shut you up.”

Cole, who worked as a cleaner in Sussex Police stations, pretended to do CPR on his fiancée as emergency services raced to the seaside campsite.

Christopher Cole arrives at Lewes Crown Court

He dialled 999 after spending the night in the tent with her body.

Paramedics found her unresponsive at 6.43am on Sunday morning.

Campers heard sounds of pots and pans being thrown about in what they believed was a drunken argument.

Duncan Atkinson QC for the prosecution told the court: “A number of witnesses heard sounds of the defendant becoming more agitated or aggressive as this argument went on.

“Two of them heard the defendant, in an angry tone, say that he would make Clayton stop.

“It was after this threat to make her stop that Sarah became quiet.”

A jury of 11 has today convicted Cole of murder.

Cole held his head in his hand and fought back tears as he waited for the verdict.

He looked to the public gallery for support as he was taken down to the cells with his belongings in a supermarket carrier bag.

Forensic examination of Ms Clayton’s body could not find the exact cause of death.

They could not rule out that Cole smothered her with a pillow.

He denied murdering her in a fit of anger.

The jury heard he used choking as a way of controlling previous girlfriends.

Earlier, the court heard another ex-girlfriend had accused Cole of grabbing her by the neck.

“You had become angry with Sarah and had sought to exert control over her by restricting her ability to breathe, as you had done in past,” Mr Atkinson told him.

Cole said: “I disagree with you totally.”

Mr Atkinson said: “When daylight came, you realised what you had done and by that Sunday evening you were seeking to protect yourself from what you had done, to hold back answers until you could think of better ones.”

Cole replied: “I don’t agree with you.

“I’ve got a mind of my own.

“No one can lead me.

“Everyone makes their own choices in life.

“I can’t explain why it ended like it ended.”

Cole said his family had taken Ms Clayton in when she was homeless and using drugs.

He said she was given strict rules about staying away from drugs or she would be thrown out of his parents’ house in Littlehampton.

Cole said they had been in a relationship for more than five months before her death and planned to marry.

He will be sentenced on Wednesday.