'Strangling a woman to death is still viewed in law as an unfortunate accident': Fury over married killer's 'outrageous' sentence of less than five years for fatally choking secret lover during 'consensual rough sex' after 24 beers

 Women's campaigners were this afternoon left disgusted after a married man was jailed just four years for strangling his lover to death.

Sam Pybus, 32, killed mother-of-two Sophie Moss while he cheated on his wife after drinking 24 bottles of lager.

He reported her death in her home in Darlington, Co Durham, himself at a police station and told investigators the choking had been consensual.

But after he denied murder at court the CPS accepted his guilty plea of manslaughter over the February 6 incident.

The 'rough sex defence' would have been open to him because it was only formally banned on April 30 this year - but he did not use it because he did not have to answer a murder charge. 

This afternoon campaign group We Can't Consent To This told MailOnline it was horrified by the sentence and were exploring if it was unduly lenient and could be referred to the Attorney General.

Spokesperson Fiona McKenzie said: 'It seems that strangling a woman to death is still viewed in law as an unfortunate accident, rather than terrible serious violence. This sends a dreadful message to women - four years eight months is an outrageous sentence for killing a woman.

'This year strangulation was made a specific offence in recognition of the seriousness of this violence, and the Government were clear, that claims of rough sex must not be used by perpetrators to evade justice.

'Justice minister Alex Chalk said of the government's law change this April: "Perpetrators of these crimes should be under no illusions – their actions will never be justifiable in any way, and they will be pursued rigorously through the courts to seek justice for victims and their families".'

'We don't think this is how the law should work - and look to the government now to see what they intend to do.' 

The CPS insisted it had investigated but there was no evidence of any intent to harm. 

Sam Pybus, 31, (pictured) admitted killing Sophie Moss, 33, who was found in a critical condition following an incident at a property in Darlington in February
Miss Moss (pictured) was taken to hospital but was tragically pronounced dead a short time later

 Sam Pybus, 31, (left) admitted killing Sophie Moss, 33, (right) who was found in a critical condition following an incident at a property in Darlington in February

CPS say 'insufficient evidence' of intent 

The Crown Prosecution Service said it did not merely accept Pybus's word that he did not intend to cause the 33-year-old serious harm - there was insufficient evidence to prove it.

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.

'In cases where death is caused by an unlawful act, but such intent cannot be proven, the appropriate charge to bring is one of manslaughter, for which we have built a robust case against the defendant.

'Our thoughts remain with the family of Sophie Moss and we sincerely hope that the sentencing today of Sam Pybus for her killing brings some measure of comfort at what must remain a very difficult time for them.'

Teesside Crown Court heard that Pybus had waited in his car for around 15 minutes afterwards, pondering his options before driving to the police station to inform them.

Pybus, who had been in an intimate relationship with his victim for a period of time, claimed the sex was entirely consensual and the act of applying 'mild pressure' was something they had done before.

Miss Moss, 33, who was mother to boys aged just six and five, was described as vulnerable by the court and was someone who had struggled with her mental health in the past.

Pybus, of Darlington, originally denied a charge of murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to a lack of evidence that suggested there was intent to harm.

Prosecutor Richard Wright said: 'In the early hours of February 6 of this year the defendant had been drinking at his home. He estimates he consumed 24 bottles of Amstel lager.

'His wife had gone to bed at about 10.30pm 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 4.47am 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.

'He (Pybus) described a history of consensual sexual activity between the two to which on occasion he applied mild pressure.' 

Pybus was charged with murder but entered a not guilty plea, which was accepted by the prosecution at Teesside Crown Court (pictured) todayShare

Following Miss Moss' death, a pathologist concluded that it could be estimated force was applied for tens of seconds, if not minutes, which resulted in the cause of death which was manual strangulation.

The court heard Pybus told police he could not recall exactly what happened but did say his hands were sore, which suggested he must have strangled her.

Mr Wright submitted to the court that the defendant's actions were aggravated by the fact his victim was vulnerable, he was drunk, and that he failed to seek immediate medical attention.

An emotional statement was read out by Miss Moss' brother, James, who said: 'To put into words the impact the tragic death of my sister Sophie has had on my family seems impossible.

'For me, losing my little sister feels like losing a part of myself.

'We grew up together with an age difference of 18 months, talking, laughing, arguing.

'She was joyous, vibrant and talented. We cared deeply for each other.

'When I received the call from my mum crying down the phone saying the worst possible thing had happened I immediately broke down.

'She feels all that I'm feeling and more, she's completely stricken by grief.

'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.'

Mr Moss also told the court that his father suffers from dementia and struggled to process the news and needed to be reminded by his wife of what happened.

The court also heard from Miss Moss' ex-partner and the father of her two children.

Mr Parkington spoke of the effect their mother's death has on their children, with one even asking to 'Facetime his mummy from heaven.'

Judge Paul Watson QC said that no sentence could ever fully justify or make up for the loss Miss Moss' family have suffered.

The judge added: 'I find as a fact that Sophie was someone who suffered from her own disabilities and her own vulnerabilities.

'I also find that 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.'

The judge gave him full credit for his guilty plea, his remorse and his previous good character before sentencing him to four years and eight months.

Sam Green, mitigating, told the court that Pybus was of previous good character and had shown disgust during police interview.

Mr Green said Pybus feels the 'It is the emotion of disgust and the difficulty living with himself for what he has done'.

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