Cara Huteson breaks down in tears when she thinks about the way her 21-year-old sister spent her last moments.
Mum-of-one Laura Huteson slowly bled to death after having her throat slit by Jason Gaskell, who claimed it was simply a sex game gone wrong. He was convicted of manslaughter.
His defence was the same as that used by the 27-year-old man found guilty of murdering Brit backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand on Friday, The Sun reports.
She is one of 59 women in the UK whose killers have put forward the “rough sex” defence – claiming the women died as a result of consensual violence.
It’s a defence that is increasingly being used in courts, resulting in men being convicted with manslaughter, not murder.
Campaign groups and victims’ families are speaking out against the defence, saying dead women’s sexual histories are being used against them.
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‘NO ONE CAN PROVE THE MEN WRONG’
Cara, 25, a health and social sciences student at Hull University, believes her sister’s killer deliberately held a knife to Laura’s neck while they were having sex at his home, severing a vital artery and vein as she died from substantial blood loss.
“The murder conviction for Grace’s killer shows they are taking this crime more seriously – but I still feel for any family that has to go through this, just like we did,” she told The Sun.
“I knew my sister more than anyone and she wouldn’t have wanted that and her ex boyfriends agree.
“These men who use rough sex as a defence are just lying and there’s no one to prove they’re wrong. We still feel sick about it.”
‘I HAD TO SEE HER COME HOME IN A BOX’
Sadly, cases like Laura’s are not so rare.
Ms Millane was strangled on the eve of her 22nd birthday last year by a man she met on a Tinder date while travelling in New Zealand who said her death was a result of “rough sex” gone wrong.
The killer claimed that Ms Millane, from Essex, asked him to choke her during sex because she was a fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey films.
Ms Millane’s family were understandably horrified by her assailant’s version of events – and Cara understands their horror only too well.
“I had to see Laura come home in a box rather than her coming through the door,” she said. “These men who use the excuse of a sex game gone wrong are lying. They should be stopped.”
HE KEPT A KNIFE UNDER HIS PILLOW
At Gaskell’s trial at Sheffield Crown Court in August 2018, the jury heard how Laura had gone to Gaskell’s home on February 27 with friends who knew him, and the group had ended up drinking vodka and taking cocaine.
They had sex during which Gaskell put his hands round Laura’s neck, but he eventually stopped when she used an agreed safe word.
Later that night the two of them were seen playing in the winter snow outside the house then had sex again later.
The court heard how Gaskell routinely kept a knife under his pillow to use in sex games and Gaskell held the knife to Laura’s throat.
He said he only realised something was wrong when Laura “gave a jerking motion”.
Gaskell was seen half-naked, covered in blood and looking “possessed” as he ran outside the house.
He then called emergency services, and paramedics arrived to find him in a state of extreme panic, but they also described him as rude and confrontational.
Gaskell later told police Laura had “fallen” or “rolled onto the knife”.
Cara believes this is nonsense.
“Laura was drunk and he took advantage of her,” she said. “He knew that knife was a dangerous weapon, and she never fell on it.”
‘BIZARRE AND VIOLENT SADOMASOCHISTIC SEXUAL ACTIVITY’
Gaskell was jailed for six years after admitting the gross negligence manslaughter of Laura in what a judge described as a “highly unusual case”.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told Gaskell, who sobbed as he was sentenced: “In simple terms you unlawfully killed the woman with whom you were having sexual intercourse by stabbing her through the neck during bizarre and violent sadomasochistic sexual activity.
“You deliberately held the knife to her throat during sexual intercourse.
“While performing the sexual act that knife went through her neck, severing a vital artery and vein.
“You did not intend that to happen, but the danger of stabbing the victim was obvious.”
Cara and her family were outraged at the short sentence and the manslaughter conviction.
“How can someone believe that it’s manslaughter?” Cara said. “From a man who slept with a knife under his pillow.”
‘WHAT IF HE DOES IT TO SOMEONE ELSE?’
Gaskell has attempted to apologise to the Huteson family but that makes Cara even angrier.
She says: “We don’t accept his apology. He gets to live his life and be with his family. He should have been locked up for murder.
“He should have known better.
“He knew the knife was a dangerous weapon, and to say it was part of the sex was just an excuse to get out of the full jail sentence. He can’t prove it.
“No one else was there. But we know Laura and she would never have consented to that.
“Everyone’s petrified for when he gets out because he’ll just go and do it to someone else.”
MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Just a few days after Gaskell was sentenced to six years for her sister’s manslaughter, he was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail at Hull Magistrates Court for a separate attack on another woman — just 11 days before he killed Laura.
Gaskell attacked the woman, who was not named, at a house on February 16.
It was understood he tried to strangle her and only stopped when her friends came to her rescue, and he had a knife with him at the time.
BEATEN WITH A SHOE AND SPRAYED WITH BLEACH
In another particularly horrific case, multi-millionaire John Broadhurst, from Staffordshire in the UK, was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for just three years and eight months for killing his girlfriend Natalie Connolly in December 2016 after, what he claimed, was consensual “rough sex”.
Ms Connolly, who suffered 40 separate injuries including serious vaginal trauma, a fractured eye socket and facial wounds, had spent the afternoon consuming a huge amount of alcohol and cocaine but was deemed sufficiently sober by the jury to consent to “rough sex”.
Broadhurst told the court that, with Ms Connolly’s consent, he beat her with a shoe, but he insisted he was not responsible for her head injuries, which were caused by her falling accidentally as a result of her inebriation.
However, he did admit to spraying bleach over her face when she was unconscious, telling the court he did this because he “didn’t want her to look a mess”.
He also admitted responsibility for the vaginal trauma.
In December 2018, Broadhurst was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.
Many were shocked, and Harriet Harman, MP spoke on BBC Woman’s Hour, condemning the verdict and the increased use of what she described as the Fifty Shades of Grey defence.
She told the program: “We cannot have a situation where men kill women and then blame those women for their own deaths.”
After the Broadhurst verdict, Fiona Mackenzie set up the We Can’t Consent to This campaign, which painstakingly collects information on defendants who have used the defence of sex going wrong.
‘THEY KILL AN ENTIRE FAMILY’
The defence isn’t always successful. Robert Simpson-Scott was convicted of the murder of Sally Cavender, his girlfriend of 15 years, after he admitted manslaughter and strangling her during “vigorous sex” and is serving a life sentence, with a minimum of 18 years.
Broadhurst has also just lost his appeal to have his sentence reduced.
Cara Huteson hopes the tide against rough sex defence is changing.
She’s chosen to study health and social sciences because, after her sister’s death, she wants to become a nurse and help people.
Laura’s son is now looked after by his dad during the week and Cara and her family at the weekend.
But Laura is deeply missed, and the family is struggling to move on.
“When something like this happens, it’s not just one person that dies,” Cara said. “It’s a whole family that dies.”
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission