A young mother might have dug her fingernails into her neck in a frantic struggle to fight off her killer as he throttled her to death with his hands, a jury heard.

Marks on Jade Watson could have been caused as she struggled for her life for at least half a minute, a Home Office pathologist told Bradford Crown Court yesterday.

James Gray, 25, of Wood Lane, Swain House, Bradford, denies murdering Miss Watson, 22, in a caravan at the rear of his home on the afternoon of November 5 last year.

He pleads guilty to her manslaughter, saying he did not intend to kill her, but lost his self-control and attacked her during an argument.

Dr Philip Lumb said he examined Miss Watson’s body in the caravan and later carried out a post-mortem examination.

Bruising to her neck was typical of manual strangulation and she had bruising to her face and a head wound.

“Considerable force would be required and the individual would be struggling to remove the force from her neck,” Dr Lumb said.

“Manual strangulation would take at least 30 seconds before death ensued.”

He told the jury that if someone was struggling and the pressure on the neck was not consistent it could take longer.

Injuries to Miss Watson’s head and neck and a torn muscle in her back indicated she had fought for her life, he said.

Dr Lumb said a ligature could have been used but she was probably killed by hands round her throat.

Her plastic hairband was found broken in the caravan and puncture marks to her scalp were consistent with it being driven into her head as she was attacked.

Paramedic Emma McAndrew told the court that she was part of a medical team that tried to save Miss Watson, of Plumpton Gardens, Wrose.

The mother-of-two, who worked at the In Plaice fish shop in Sunbridge Road, Bradford, was pronounced dead after 50 minutes. Chris Gill, of Leeds, said he and Miss Watson began a relationship in August last year after meeting through the internet.

They were planning a new life together and he did not know she was still seeing Gray.

The jury has heard that Gray and Miss Watson separated in May 2013 but continued to meet in secret at various locations, including the caravan which was situated behind Gray’s mother’s house in Wood Lane, Swain House.

The trial continues.