A KILLER who bludgeoned a lover to death after wrongly believing he was a paedophile has lost a Court of Appeal bid to have the murder conviction overturned.

Christopher Hunnisett strangled Peter Bick and hit him over the head repeatedly with a hammer in January 2011, before telling police the killing was “part of a mission to hunt down paedophiles”.

Hunnisett, 37, who now identifies as a woman and is called Crystal, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years after being convicted of Mr Bick’s murder in May 2012 following a trial at Lewes Crown Court.

Her case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

READ MORE >> Bexhill killer Christopher Hunnisett appeals against conviction

At a hearing in January, a panel of three senior judges were asked to consider whether new psychiatric evidence that Hunnisett was suffering from a psychotic illness at the time of Mr Bick’s murder undermined the safety of the conviction.

But, in a ruling on Thursday, the judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was “no proper basis to admit the fresh evidence or therefore to impugn the safety of the appellant’s conviction”.

Hunnisett handed herself in at Hastings Police Station on January 11, 2011 just hours after killing Mr Bick, a 57-year-old supermarket worker from Bexhill, East Sussex.

She then took steps to cover her tracks, including using Mr Bick’s mobile phone to “manufacture evidence” by creating messages appearing to show he had contact with a 15-year-old boy before destroying it along with his computer.

She said her motive for the killing was that he was a paedophile, but there was no evidence to support that claim.

Towards the end of her trial, she insisted that she did not want to run a partial defence of diminished responsibility, but the Crown Court judge left the matter for the jury to decide anyway.

Mr Bick was murdered just four months after Hunnisett was cleared of murdering Reverend Ronald Glazebrook at his home in St Leonards, East Sussex.

Hunnisett, then aged 18, was convicted of Rev Glazebrook’s murder in 2002 after jurors heard she drowned the 81-year-old vicar in the bath before asking a friend to help dismember the body.

That conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal after Hunnisett revealed she had been sexually abused by Mr Glazebrook, and she was acquitted of murder by a jury at a retrial in September 2010.

The CCRC’s referral to the appeal court turned on the evidence of a forensic psychiatrist who gave expert evidence for the prosecution at Hunnisett’s trial for Mr Bick’s murder.

At the time of the trial, the psychiatrist’s opinion was that Hunnisett was not suffering any abnormality of mind which would have led to a defence of diminished responsibility being available to her at her trial.

However, the CCRC asked the same psychiatrist to assess Hunnisett following her move to a secure hospital after she performed “self surgery to remove her testicles”.

In a September 2019 report, the psychiatrist concluded Hunnisett’s beliefs were “delusional”, and said she had only been willing to consider that she may have a mental illness since being treated with medication.

Another psychiatrist diagnosed Hunnisett with schizophrenia and formed the view that she remains “an exceptional risk, possibly more so if she were ever successful in pursuing gender reassignment”, which the expert feared was an attempt to transfer to a women’s facility.

But a third expert, instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the appeal, concluded Hunnisett had a “narcissistic personality disorder and a moderate degree of psychopathy”, which he concluded was not consistent with schizophrenia.

Dame Victoria Sharp, who heard the appeal with two other judges, said the apparent basis for the fresh evidence was Hunnisett’s “delusional ideas”.

However, the judge said these delusions were described by those who examined Hunnisett ahead of the trial in 2012 and the jury had the opportunity to assess them before rejecting the defence of diminished responsibility.

She added: “Moreover, the new diagnosis now advanced is entirely predicated on the accuracy of the appellant’s recent disclosures … some seven years or more after the trial, when all clinicians and experts agree that the appellant is not an accurate historian, that she has a pronounced tendency to fantasise and lie and has been a profoundly inconsistent and unreliable narrator throughout.

“There is no, or no credible, explanation for the appellant’s failure to report significant aspects of that which is now considered to be important, to a succession of psychiatrists and others over an extended period.”

The judge also said the defence of diminished responsibility was “firmly” before the jury, adding: “The issue of the appellant’s delusional ideation and its effect on her actions was central to the case.”

She concluded that the fresh evidence went over the same ground as that presented at Hunnisett’s trial in 2012.

She said: “We are not persuaded either that the account now provided by the appellant, and upon which the new diagnosis is apparently based, is credible.

“It was, as we have said, very significantly undermined by other evidence presented at trial.

“The new diagnosis is further undermined both by the continuity of earlier psychiatric opinion carefully examined at the 2012 trial and the extent to which that diagnosis has been based on developments in the appellant’s mental health since the trial.”

A previous appeal bid by Hunnisett, in which she represented herself and put in a handwritten case extending to over 105 pages, was rejected in 2014.