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Fury over soft jail-term of killer who strangled mum to death in ‘rough sex’


CAMPAIGNERS have slammed the sentence for a killer who strangled his lover to death during a sex game as “too lenient”. 

Sam Pybus, 32, waited until his wife had gone to bed before texting his secret lover Sophie Moss, 33, to arrange to meet.

Durham Constabulary

Sam Pybus, 31, admitted killing Sophie Moss, 33[/caption]

Durham Constabulary

He denied murdering Sophie – but later admitted “unlawful killing”[/caption]

Pybus was yesterday jailed for four years and eight months at Teeside Crown Court for murdering his girlfriend, after denying that he killed her deliberately. 

He went to her house where they had sex, and strangled her for several minutes during intercorurse until she was dead. 

Indifferent Pybus didn’t bother to give her first aid and sat in his car deciding what to do, before driving to a police station and telling staff he believed he had strangled her.

Officers raced to her flat where they found her unresponsive. She was rushed to hospital but doctors were unable to save her.

He will serve around half of his sentence before being released, with Women’s Aid slamming the jail term he was given. 

They welcomed the closing of the “rough sex” loophole which has allowed abusers to get reduced sentences by claiming their victims consented to attacks.

Teresa Parker, of Women’s Aid, said: “This low sentence shows exactly why it was so important to outlaw the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence.

“This defence has routinely been used by men who have killed women to secure a lower sentence.

“In 45 per cent of cases in which a man kills a woman during a sexual act and claims she gave her consent, the defence of ‘consent for sexual gratification’ succeeds, leading to lower sentences.

“Four years and eight months for a woman’s life sends out a terrifying message to women living with violent and abusive partners.

“With on average three women being killed by current or former partners every fortnight in the UK, this recent change to the law could not be any more vital and this must be one of the last cases we see like this.”

Helen Slimin, of Sunderland-based campaign group Wearside in Recovery,  added: “It’s crazy and really sad. I also think about the hidden victims in these cases such as his relatives who are invisible.

“For a judge to accept that he didn’t remember is awful.

“Someone has to have a propensity to violence to strangle a woman to death. The sentence minimises the crime of domestic violence.

“I think people are losing faith in the justice system. There are some great judges who give good sentences but this is not an example of it.”


Sophie’s brother James said in a victim impact statement: “She was joyous, vibrant and talented.

“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.”

Sophie lived alone at the time she died. Daniel Parkington, the father of her two boys, aged five and six, said: “They have been given a life sentence.

“It’s not fair and it never will be.”

He added that one of them had asked to “Facetime his mummy from heaven”.

Pybus had been having a relationship with Sophie behind his wife’s back for three years.

He had been charged with murder but was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge due to a lack of evidence that he intended to seriously harm her.

She had agreed for him to apply “mild pressure” to her neck during sex in the past, the court heard.

I do think he has got away with it.

Sharon Bryan, National Centre for Domestic Violence

They would meet around six times a year for sex and in the early hours of February 7 this year he arranged to go to her home in Darlington, Co Durham, after he had downed 24 bottles of Amstel lager.

Sharon Bryan, Head of Partnerships & Development at the National Centre for Domestic Violence, said: “We see cases like this all of the time.

“In different circumstances he could have been done for murder and I do think he has got away with it.

“It’s not so much about the laws being brought in, it’s whether or not they are acted upon.

“If they are not being practised on a ground level, it won’t make a difference.

“I thought the sentence was very lenient. He might only do half or less the time – that’s not a deterrent.

“The lenient sentence trivialises what has happened and the act of what that man did. He says he didn’t remember doing it but he still killed her.

“I think that the issue is so huge with the judicial system and yes it’s great he’s gone to prison but more needs to be done.

“It’s about understanding the complexities of domestic abuse and what happens – just because she didn’t have any other injuries doesn’t mean he wasn’t abusive to her before.”


Prosecutor Richard Wright QC told Teesside crown court: “His wife had gone to bed at about 10.30 and the defendant remained downstairs.

“He made contact with Sophie Moss to travel to her flat to arrange to have sexual intercourse with her.

“At 4:47 in the early hours the defendant walked into Darlington police station having driven there in his car from Sophie’s flat.

“He told them he believed he had strangled her but he was unsure she was breathing.

“Officers were immediately deployed and attended the flat. They found Sophie naked and entirely unresponsive.

“All efforts at the scene and at the hospital were unsuccessful and Sophie was declared dead in hospital.”

Pybus, of Middleton St George, Darlington, told police he could not recall what happened but said his hands were sore, suggesting he had strangled her.

Sam Green, mitigating, said Pybus had “emotions of self-disgust and the difficulties of living with that he had done.

Judge Paul Watson QC said no sentence could make up for the loss her family had suffered.

He told Pybus: “This was a case in which at the time you were voluntarily intoxicated, unable to judge the situation and perhaps to have stopped when it was obvious that you had gone too far.”

“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.”


Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:

  • Always keep your phone nearby.
  • Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
  • If you are in danger, call 999.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
  • Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
  • If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
  • Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.

 If you are a ­victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support ­service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – messageinfo@supportline.org.uk.

Women’s Aid provides a live chat service – available every day from 10am-6pm.

You can also call the freephone 24-hour ­National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

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