A musician accused of strangling a special needs teacher for a sexual thrill once told a girlfriend he feared he could murder a woman, a court heard today.

Former partner Sandra Gates told a jury Graham Coutts was "turned on" by her distress during sex and once placed a pillow over her head until she struggled free.

Coutts is accused of strangling Jane Longhurst with a pair of tights before hiding her body for weeks and then burning it.

The 39-year-old, of Waterloo Street, Hove, was allegedly having non-consensual sex with her during or after her death, his re-trial has heard.

Ms Gates, who lived with Coutts on and off for several years up to 1996, described how, one day towards the end of the relationship, he had seemed distressed and she asked what was wrong.

"He actually said 'I have the feeling that I am going to murder a woman. I could strangle and murder a woman.' He was very, very distressed.

"I was very shocked about it and upset. I said 'You really ought to go and see someone about this'."

She told the Old Bailey jury he would often like to tie her up with her tights and stockings and put his hands around her neck, even though she did not enjoy it.

Asked by prosecutor Philip Katz if there was anything that excited Coutts, she said: "My distress."

She added: "I would ask him please to remove his arm or hand. I obviously wasn't comfortable. It was obvious. I just felt helpless, I couldn't move."

Ms Gates added: "Sometimes it was a loving relationship but more often than not it wasn't. It was as if I wasn't there."

Ms Gates told the court about another occasion when she was in bed.

"It was horrible. I was lying down and he put the pillow over my head and pushed it. I struggled and pushed it off. It just happened out of the blue."

Coutts denies murdering Miss Longhurst, 31, who lived in Brighton but was from Reading, Berkshire, claiming her death was a tragic accident.

The trial continues.