Murder trial: Man ‘obsessed’ with throttling women during sex strangled Marston teenager, court hears

Hannah Pearson.
Hannah Pearson.

A man ‘obsessed’ with throttling women during sex strangled his pal’s 16-year-old girlfriend to death just hours after they met, a court heard yesterday (Tuesday).

James Morton climbed into bed with Hannah Pearson, from Marston, who was drunk and ‘struggling to stand up’, before placing his hands around her neck and killing the teenager, a jury was told at Nottingham Crown Court.

The 24-year-old then smashed her iPhone up before calling police to the home he shared with his parents and claiming she had died inadvertently as the result of a sex game gone wrong.

But prosecutors allege Hannah’s death was ‘no accident’.

Michael Evans QC, opening the case against Morton, said: “He was someone who increasingly enjoyed the sensation of strangling women. He knew it was dangerous, that is what turned him on.

“The defendant admitted to enjoying the sensation of strangling women during sex. He admitted enjoying the feeling of domination.

“We suggest, on the evidence you will hear, that it would have been obvious to him that he was causing really serious harm. We say that on this night, his increasing obsession with strangulation reached a different level.

“On his own account, he was sober, she was not. He was in control, she was not. And by his description, he knew exactly what he was doing.”

The court heard Morton claimed he undressed Hannah, with her help, before sitting on top of her and placing his left hand around her throat, applying what he described as ‘light pressure’ and telling her that if she didn’t like it, he’d stop. He also performed a sex act.

Mr Evans said Morton then stated he put both hands around her neck and ‘increased the pressure to four or five out of 10’, ‘enjoying the domination factor of this’, but released his grip after hearing a ‘deep intake of breath’.

He then claimed he ‘massaged’ Hannah’s neck and shoulders, which she seemed to be ‘enjoying’ – but must have died without him realising, adding he struggled to see because it was dark and he was not wearing his glasses.

Supermarket worker Morton, of Newark, denies murdering Hannah last summer.

Jurors were told how police officers found her lying naked on the floor of Morton’s bedroom, covered in blood and unresponsive. The schoolgirl was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Mr Evans said emergency services rushed to Morton’s home after he dialled 999 at 12.11am on July 24 to say he had ‘killed someone and it was an accident’.

The prosecutor added: “He stated they had gone upstairs and were fooling around and he had started to strangle her. He stated, ‘She didn’t say anything for me to stop so I carried on and now she’s not ******* breathing’.”

The court heard Morton’s explanation for police officers finding Hannah on the floor rather than on the bed was that she had ‘bounced’ there after he shook her when he realised she was unconscious.

But Mr Evans told the jury: “Is it possible? Yes. Is it a plausible explanation? No. Is this a lie by him? Does this indicate a struggle? Does this indicate a more frenzied attack? Does this indicate anger? Does this indicate temper? These are matters for you to judge.”

The prosecutor added: “He stated that he has previously put his hands around previous girlfriends’ throats during sexual encounters. He said that he does not ask before he does this but waits to see if they enjoy it.

“He said he definitely, and did, realise that the possible consequence of strangulation was causing death, but did not think this would happen. That, in short, is his case.

“Of course Hannah has no voice. She cannot tell you what happened. But you certainly have evidence. We are going to invite you to look at the reality.”

Today (Wednesday), the court heard from Hannah’s boyfriend, Jed Hope.

The court heard how Hannah and Morton had been introduced in Lincoln that afternoon by Mr Hope, who was celebrating his 19th birthday.

Mr Hope told the court how the three of them visited a pub, where Hannah drank Coca Cola, and a convenience store to buy alcohol, before Morton asked if they would like to stay at his house as his parents were away.

They accepted, but Mr Hope was later forced to decline Morton’s offer when he realised he didn’t have the train fare to travel to Newark. Hannah, who had intended to either stay over at a someone’s house or be picked up by her mother, ‘didn’t want to go home’, so decided to go to Morton’s.

Mr Hope told jurors: “She said, ‘I can stay there and you can come round the next day’. The plan was I would go round early on Sunday morning, about 10am.

“I thought they would have a laugh, watch films together as mates, and then I would go round.”

He added he had given his blessing for Hannah to stay at Morton’s home because he didn’t want to ‘control’ her, adding he ‘wasn’t worried’.

However, under cross-examination from Shaun Smith QC, defending, Mr Hope told the court Hannah had texted her mother to say she was staying at his house.

He also accepted he had told police Morton was a ‘nice guy, quiet, not violent or angry’.

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.