An EX-SOCIAL worker who murdered the "love of his life" on New Year's Eve had his conviction upheld by appeal court judges today.

Gareth Horton, who followed his victim Charlotte Flanagan down to London from his home town of Darwen before murdering her, claimed mental illness stripped him of responsibility for her killing.

His case reached London's Appeal Court as his barrister, Julia Krish, unsuccessfully urged judges to grant permission to appeal his murder conviction, citing fresh psychiatric evidence.

At trial, his defence team had presented psychiatric evidence suggesting he was affected by "diminished responsibility" due to a history of depression.

This mental disorder had caused him to "flip" on the night of the killing, Miss Krish told Lady Justice Hallett, who was sitting with Mr Justice Stanley Burnton and Judge Sir John Blofeld.

Rejecting the application, Lady Justice Hallett said the fresh evidence concerned claims that he was misdiagnosed at the time of his trial, with recent psychiatric assessments suggesting he is prey to a "schizoid personality disorder".

She said the question of Horton's mental instability was fully aired at his trial, while the new evidence only served to provide a "more serious medical label for his symptoms".

Horton's conviction challenge was little more than an "experts' shopping expedition", she said, in which experts had been canvassed until a fresh diagnosis was secured for his condition.

Such a practice was "deprecated" by the appeal court, she said.

Horton, 34, of Walmsley Street, Darwen, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey in October 2002 after a jury convicted him of murdering Miss Flanagan.