A man who choked his lover to death during consensual sex has been jailed for four years and eight months after he admitted manslaughter.
Sam Pybus, 32, was drunk when he applied “prolonged” pressure to Sophie Moss’s neck at her home in Darlington in the early hours of February 7.
Judge Paul Watson QC, sentencing him at Teesside Crown Court, accepted the married defendant did not intend to kill and his remorse was genuine.
The court heard he was to tell police his some-time lover would encourage him to strangle her during sex.
Pybus was originally charged with murder but the court heard a Home Office pathologist found that the amount of pressure applied to the vulnerable mother-of-two’s neck was towards the lower end of cases which resulted in death.
The pressure could have been applied for tens of seconds or even minutes, the court heard.
There was no sign of any other violence used or evidence of a fight.
Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said Ms Moss lived alone and had a history of alcohol misuse, and had physical and mental health problems.
Pybus, without his wife’s knowledge, had been in a casual relationship with Ms Moss for three years, seeing her for sex around six times a year.
He had drunk 24 bottles of Amstel lager over 10 hours, and after his wife went to bed he drove round to the 33-year-old’s flat.
At 4.43am on February 7 he then drove to Darlington police station and told staff he believed he had strangled Ms Moss in her flat.
Officers found her naked and unresponsive in bed.
He was to tell detectives that during their casual sexual activity, he would apply pressure to her neck, “an act he said she encouraged and enjoyed”, Mr Wright said.
“He said sex between them was rough and he would dominate her during sexual activity, but he said he would never hurt her.”
Pybus, of Water View, Middleton St George, Darlington, told police he could only recall coming around in his boxer shorts and finding her unconscious.
Mr Wright said Pybus told detectives that “he must have strangled her but couldn’t remember doing so”.
The defendant had not rendered first aid and instead went to his car and thought about what to do for 15 minutes before driving to the police station.
Detectives made extensive inquiries and found no evidence of an argument or any reason for Pybus to harm Ms Moss, the prosecution said.
The claim that she encouraged strangulation during sex was backed up by her long-term partner, the court heard.
Her brother James Moss, of behalf of the family, made a victim statement, saying: “She was joyous, vibrant, funny, talented and fearless, unless she saw a spider.”
He recalled receiving a call from their mother to say the “worst possible thing had happened” and he cried inconsolably since then.
Mr Moss said their mother Jillian devoted her life to her family and was a full-time carer for their father Roger who has dementia.
Her brother said: “Somehow we must come to terms with never knowing the full circumstances.
“We will never be able to shake the belief that whatever the nature of their relationship, and her role in it, that she was a victim, taken advantage of and exploited, and was subjected to an entirely avoidable and infinitely tragic end.”
Daniel Parkington, the father of her two boys who are five and six, said: “They have been given a life sentence.
“It’s not fair and it never will be.”
Sam Green QC, defending, said during meetings Pybus did not have self-pity, “but emotions of self-disgust and the difficulties of living with that he had done”.
Speaking of testimonials presented to the court on his behalf, Mr Green said Pybus was aware of their limited worth, saying: “Just because some people said he was a good cricketer, community-spirited and conducted himself with courtesy on the golf course, does not provide a great deal of mitigation in a case where a death has occurred.”
Judge Watson told the defendant: “This was a case in which you were voluntarily intoxicated, unable to judge the situation and perhaps to have stopped when it was obvious that you had gone too far.”
He said: “It was obviously dangerous conduct, whether consensual or otherwise.
“Dangerous in the sense that any compression of the neck creates an obvious risk of brain damage or worse as this case so tragically demonstrates.”