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Jury told about kidnap

PUBLISHED: 11:34 24 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:37 05 July 2010

A man accused of murdering his fiancée by driving over her head on a Suffolk road was involved in an incident in which a student was kidnapped and attacked seven years earlier, a court has heard.

A man accused of murdering his fiancée by driving over her head on a Suffolk road was involved in an incident in which a student was kidnapped and attacked seven years earlier, a court has heard.

Christopher Caunter, 36, allegedly “rammed” a fire extinguisher down on Ian Osakwe's hand and placed a saucepan under his ankle and jumped on it.

Mr Osakwe told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that he was held captive for two days by five men, including Caunter, in April 2000 after he stole around £20,000 while working for one of the men.

The court heard he was taken to a house in the London area and questioned about the missing money. He described being punched and kicked but over the course of the next two days the violence escalated and included him being hit around the head and left knee with a hammer and being burnt on his left hand and left leg with a knife that had been heated on a gas stove.

Mr Osakwe, giving evidence for the prosecution, said that he was afraid he would be killed by the men: “I feared for my life, I thought I would die.”

He alleged at one point that a string cord was placed round his neck and used to try to strangle him as well as being used to drag him across a room while he was sitting on a chair with wheels.

The court heard the ordeal came to an end when police arrived at the address where he was being held and he was taken to hospital.

Mr Osakwe told the jury Caunter was in the property at the time the police arrived and he identified him as one of his captors.

Cross-examining, David Etherington, for Caunter, suggested Mr Osakwe was reluctant to give evidence against the men at the Old Bailey because he feared prosecution over the allegations of missing money.

Mr Osakwe said he had only recently found out that Caunter had been jailed for nine months for his part in the incident after failing to appear at the court case.

Caunter, of Hullbridge, Essex, has denied murdering his girlfriend Deborah Townsend in July 2005. Also before the court are his brother Robert Caunter, 39, of Barking, and Joseph Brown, 39, of Romford, who have denied helping him after Ms Townsend's death.

It has been alleged that Christopher Caunter drove over Ms Townsend's head on the A134 at Beccles during an argument and later left her body in the back of his Land Rover Discovery at Newland Hall at Roxwell near Chelmsford.

Caunter had then fled to Thailand where he remained until he was extradited back to the UK in 2007.

Caunter has claimed that Ms Townsend died accidentally after jumping out of his car.

The trial continues.

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