Murder accused "can't explain" how partner was brutally beaten and strangled to death

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A man accused of murdering his partner after a row told a court he can’t explain how she was beaten and strangled to death.

Police found Natalie Saunders, 33, dead in the couple’s bedroom in October with multiple injuries consistent with being “brutally and repeatedly” beaten about the head and body, and strangulation.

But Stephen Charlton, 24, says he has no idea what happened to her and denied inflicting physical violence, reports Teesside Live.

He also denied making threats to put her in hospital, nine weeks before her death.

He told Teesside Crown Court on Friday that the pair had been “getting along fine” and had been listening to music and drinking before an argument broke out at the house in Brambles Farm.

Stephen Charlton, 24, denies murdering Natalie Saunders, 33, at her home

Asked by Nicolas Lumley QC, defending, if voices were raised, the defendant said: “Maybes yeah, maybes shouting.”

He claimed he went to sleep at around 1am or 2am and woke the next morning to find his girlfriend motionless on the floor with a “bit of blood coming out her mouth” and a “fat eye”.

He told the court he called his dad instead of an ambulance because he “wasn’t with it” and “panicked”.

During the hearing on Friday, Mr Lumley asked the defendant how Natalie “ended up in that state”.

He tearfully replied: “I don’t know.”

He later told jurors how the pair would argue after drinking alcohol at home and taking diazepam.

The defendant told the court he can’t explain what happened to her

Police said Natalie had been “brutally and repeatedly” beaten and strangled

“She would end up hitting me, I would end up pushing her back,” he claimed, adding she would “bruise easy”.

Mr Lumley referred to a previous witness describing Natalie as being covered in bruises, asking: “Do you remember her being in that condition ever?”

The defendant replied: “No.”

Mr Lumley: “Have you ever hurt her so badly that she would be covered in bruises?”

He replied: “No I haven’t.”

Around nine weeks before her death, the victim made a 999 call claiming her partner was threatening her.

The court was told how she said to the operator: “I’ve been with a lad for six weeks and he’s been out like a few nights and he’s threatening to… put me in hospital and that.”

The court heard evidence of a 999 call the victim had made nine weeks before her death, claiming her partner was threatening her

She named the man as Stephen Charlton and said later in the call: “He’s already been locked up for assaulting me before, but I denied that he done it.”

The defendant denied threatening to put his partner in hospital.

The prosecution’s case is that the defendant brutally beat and then “manually strangled” Natalie Saunders to death.

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace QC said paramedics had entered the house and found it “apparent she had been brutally and repeatedly beaten about the head and body”.

Stephen Charlton, 24, of Gresham, Middlesbrough, denies murder.

The trial continues.

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