The case against Vicky’s father

Tony Couchman

Tony Couchman

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DETECTIVES had built up a circumstantial case against Tony Couchman and a jury would have learned about his volatile relationship with his daughter.

The man tasked with finding Vicky’s killer told the Observer there were no other suspects.

DCI Adam Hibbert gave the following account of his evidence against the man he believed murdered the teenager.

He told the inquest that on May 15, 2008 a neighbour saw Vicky saying “I’ve had enough - he’s too controlling.”

The neighbour said that Couchman and Vicky had rowed that night.

DCI Hibbert said that at 6.46pm she spoke to a friend and said she was going to bed because she was tired.

She was supposed to be meeting a neighbour who she had struck up a relationship with. But when he called at the house Couchman told him that she had gone out.

At 9.59pm, the neighbour rang Vicky’s phone which went to answerphone.

Detectives believe that Vicky was killed on this evening by her father and the Crown Prosecution Service would have asserted his P-reg Vauxhall Omega car was scrapped on June 6 even though it had an MOT until March 2009.At 8.09pm that evening he claimed he had received a text from Vicky which said she had gone and was ‘sorry for all the lies and trouble she had caused.’

On Saturday, May 17, Couchman asked the neighbours if they had seen the postman because he claimed Vicky had posted her Post Office account card back. He later told police that he had withdrawn money from her account to put towards a family holiday. Then he claimed £590 had been removed from the tea caddy used to store the holiday funds.

An Automatic Police Number Recognition device had traced Couchman’s P-reg Omega driving south along Queensway on the morning of Sunday, May 18.

At no time did he report his daughter missing to the police. He rang on June 13 to say that it would be a waste of police time as she was consistently running off.

He told social services he did not want to tell the police she was missing because they would take his granddaughter away from him.

On May 17 he made nine attempts to phone Vicky.

On August 22 a text was sent to Vicky’s mother Fiona Masters to say she was with a boy called Steve and they had a flat, money and were ‘okay’.

On August 31 another text message purporting to be Vicky was received. The handset was examined and police experts revealed it had been sent from close to Couchman’s address.

On September 27 a completely different number text Couchman. This message said that she needed some time and needed her own space. But it was not forwarded to her mother. Couchman just told her the details in his own text.

It was established that these texts had been sent by a Nokia 1600 phone.

A man fitting Couchman’s description went to Tel’s shop in Bexhill and bought the same phone. Couchman’s car was spotted by ANPR in Bexhill on the same day the phone was bought.

A text expert examined what had been sent to Couchman’s phone. He came to the conclusion that the text had been sent by Couchman himself and it was improbable that Vicky had sent them. The CPS would ascertain that this was strange behaviour.

On October 15 Couchman claimed to have lost his mobile phone which may have been crucial to their prosecution case.

When told she her remains had been found by police officers he attacked them and they had to use captor spray. He was arrested for assault.

He was then arrested on suspicion of murder. In police interview he denied taking any part in her death. He said he took sleeping tablets on the night in question but slept right through until the morning. A next door neighbour said Couchman answered the door that evening and he was also found to be sending text messages that evening when he was supposed to be fast asleep.

He denied sending texts to himself pretending to be Vicky. The CPS would state that he told numerous lies to his associates.

When a friend asked Couchman for Vicky’s mobile number he gave him her old number. All her jewellery and possessions were left behind which had been bagged up and put in the loft at Beecham Place. That Christmas Couchman bought presents for other members of his family but not Vicky.

He wrote a diary book most days in tribute to his late son Liam. But during the days of May 17 to May 19 there were no entries.