Man stands trial accused of murdering his fiancée at Seaford campsite

A man smothered his fiancée in a tent in Seaford after shouting ‘If you don’t shut up, I will shut you up’, a court has heard.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 2:57 pm
The scene in Seaford in 2018

Christopher Cole, 31, who is on trial for murder, pretended to do CPR on Sarah Clayton when emergency services arrived the morning after other campers heard them arguing, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Sarah Clayton, 21, was found dead at the Buckle campsite in Seaford after people heard what they thought were ‘choking noises’, as if she was finding it hard to breathe.

One witness claims Cole said: “If you don’t shut up, I will shut you up.”

The scene in Seaford in 2018

Her body was found next to a pillow in a section of the tent which was separate to the sleeping area, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Duncan Atkinson QC showed the jury images of the campsite after the incident in the early hours of May 13, 2018.

Paramedics found Sarah Clayton unresponsive at 6.43am.

Mr Atkinson said: “A number of the campers heard the sound of pans and other items being hit, knocked over or dropped, consistent with this argument having become heated and at least to an extent physical.

The scene in Seaford in 2018

“There were signs of such a disturbance when the tent was entered by the emergency services in the morning.

“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.”

Mr Atkinson said doctors testing Ms Clayton’s body did not know her exact cause of death.

A possibility is that she died of sudden adult death syndrome.

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

He said: “Whilst other causes of death, both natural and deliberate, could similarly be excluded the fact remains that Sarah Clayton died during the night she spent with the defendant at the campsite.

“The prosecution’s case is that you can be sure that Sarah Clayton was deliberately and unlawfully killed, and that the defendant killed her.

“Put simply, may it be a coincidence that Sarah Clayton should suddenly and unexpectedly die from undetected natural causes on a night when she had argued violently with her partner, and when others had heard signs that her breathing was being obstructed?”

Mr Atkinson said there were no signs of any heart problems or brain problems suffered by Ms Clayton, and she was seen to be well in the hours before her death.

He said witnesses heard the argument started after Cole and Ms Clayton had returned from The Shore pub in Seaford town centre.

Witnesses claimed they heard Ms Clayton abusing Cole, and he told her: “You need to stop hitting me, I am getting very fed up.”

Mr Atkinson said: “On the Sunday morning the defendant called the emergency services and was talked through how to administer CPR to Ms Clayton.

“This involved him both counting and performing actions of resuscitation.

“Those who first came upon the defendant that morning noted that he was counting, so that the emergency operator would hear him, but not actually performing CPR that the operator was asking him to undertake.”

Cole, of Clun Road, Wick, said he was in love with Clayton and was planning to marry her, and said the couple were having a nice weekend together.

He denies murder, the trial is expected to last for three weeks.