Tabak denies sexual motive for strangling

Yeates's killer was calm as he insisted on second day of evidence there had been no struggle

Joanna Yeates's killer denied he strangled her for his sexual gratification as he gave evidence for the second day in the murder trial yesterday.

With her father and boyfriend listening intently just feet away, Vincent Tabak maintained his composure under cross examination.

The 33-year-old Dutch engineer admits manslaughter but denies murder, insisting he never intended to kill Miss Yeates, a 25-year-old landscape architect.

Miss Yeates's disappearance after leaving drinks with colleagues last year led to a full-scale missing persons hunt which ended eight days later, on Christmas morning, when her body was found by dog walkers on a snowy verge three miles from her home. Her neighbour, Tabak, was arrested on 20 January.

Giving evidence for a second day at Bristol Crown Court, he was asked by the prosecutor, Nigel Lickley QC, whether his motivation in killing Miss Yeates was sexual: "Did you derive sexual gratification from holding her throat?" Tabak replied: "Definitely not." Admitting he was attracted to Miss Yeates, he insisted he was not excited when he tried to kiss her.

He had, he told the court, misunderstood her "cheery, happy" demeanor after she invited him into her flat. "We were standing close to each other; she invited me in for a drink. I though she was flirtatious," he said.

Earlier, the jury heard his claims that Miss Yeates had screamed when he went to kiss her and he had placed a hand over her mouth, killing her in a matter of 20 seconds. He added: "It was not my intention to harm her. I just wanted to calm her down and stop her from screaming."

The prosecution claims the fact that Miss Yeates had 43 injuries showed she had fought for her life. "There was no fight," Tabak insisted.

Contrary to claims he was cold and calculating in his attempts to cover up the crime, he said he was "in a state of panic" after dumping her body. But he conceded that he knew full well what he was doing as he covered his tracks over the next few weeks. "I misled the police, yes," he said. "And it is dishonest."

Tabak's voice shook as he told the jury that he was sorry for what he had done to Miss Yeates's parents, her boyfriend and to his girlfriend, Tanja Morson. His calm appearance was also shaken when he was shown an image of Miss Yeates's body in a foetal position at Flax Bourton mortuary, in Somerset. Later Dr Nat Cary, a forensic pathologist, insisted that it was "largely speculative" that the motive for the attack was sexual and his examination found it was extremely unlikely she had been assaulted that way.

The trial continues.