Attorney General to consider appeal against sex choke killer’s sentence

The Attorney General’s Office is considering whether to appeal against the four years and eight months jail term handed to a man who choked his lover to death during sex.

Labour’s Harriet Harman, who chairs Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, wrote to the Attorney General to complain about the “unduly lenient” sentence handed on Tuesday to Sam Pybus for the manslaughter of Sophie Moss, a vulnerable 33-year-old mother of two.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Pybus, 32, was drunk when he applied pressure to her neck for tens of seconds or even minutes, at her flat in Darlington in February.

Sam Pybus court case
Killer Sam Pybus who was jailed for four years and eight months at Teesside Crown Court (Durham Police)

He woke up and found her naked and unresponsive, did not dial 999 but waited in his car for 15 minutes before driving to a police station to raise the alarm, the court heard.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had applied enough pressure to her neck for long enough to kill. There was no evidence of any other injuries or violence.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was not sufficient evidence to support a charge of murder as there was nothing to suggest he intended to kill her or cause serious harm.

Married Pybus told police they had been in a casual relationship for three years, and that she encouraged him to strangle her during consensual sex.

The court heard her long-term partner, not named in court, said likewise.

Judge Paul Watson QC, jailed Pybus for four years and eight months having reduced the sentence down from seven years after giving credit for his early guilty plea to manslaughter.

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Ms Harman has written to the Attorney General Michael Ellis QC to apply for the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

She said: “This sentence fails to reflect the gravity of the crime, the impact of her death on her family including her two young children, his sole culpability for her death, his cynical shifting of the responsibility from himself to her and sends out the message that killing your girlfriend during sex is a minor matter.”

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: “We have received a request for the case of Sam Pybus to be considered under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

“Only one request is required for us to review whether a sentence is too low.

“The Law Officers have 28 days from sentencing to consider the case and make a decision on whether to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.”

After the hearing, Christopher Atkinson, of CPS North East, said: “While the defendant has always acknowledged the fatal consequences of his actions, he also claimed that it was never his intent to cause Sophie serious harm or, as was tragically the case, her death.

“We must make it very clear that the Crown Prosecution Service has not simply accepted the account put forward by the defendant, but that we have proactively determined that there was insufficient evidence capable of establishing beyond reasonable doubt that he intended the serious harm or death of Sophie Moss.”