A MAN accused of smothering his girlfriend to death in a camping tent later pretended to perform CPR on her, a court heard.

Christopher Cole, 31, is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Sarah Clayton at the Buckle campsite in Seaford.

It is alleged that witnesses heard the couple having a row inside the tent, before hearing Ms Clayton, 21, going silent.

Some 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.”

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.

The Argus: Police forensics experts at the scene at the Buckle campsite in Seaford in May 2018Police forensics experts at the scene at the Buckle campsite in Seaford in May 2018

Duncan Atkinson QC opened the case for the prosecution before the jury of five men and seven women.

He showed the jury images of the campsite, off Marine Parade after the alleged incident in the early hours of May 13, 2018.

Paramedics were then called at 6.43am only to find Sarah Clayton unresponsive.

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.

“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.

The Argus: Christopher Cole is accused of the murder of his girlfriend Sarah Clayton in a tent in SeafordChristopher Cole is accused of the murder of his girlfriend Sarah Clayton in a tent in Seaford

“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.

But they could also not rule out the fact that Cole had 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.

The Argus: Police at the scene of the incident at Buckle campsite in SeafordPolice at the scene of the incident at Buckle campsite in Seaford

“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.

The Argus: Sarah Clayton was found dead in SeafordSarah Clayton was found dead in Seaford

"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.

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