A UK woman who made international headlines after she was found dead in a five-star hotel room was believed to have died in a sex game that went horribly wrong.

Now a prominent legal expert is calling for the violent sex act to be banned, saying it's domestic violence and likening it to a game of chicken on the road.

Anna Florence Reed, 22, was discovered lifeless in the bathroom last week, hours after an alleged altercation with her German lover that was said to involve erotic asphyxiation.

Anna Florence Reed and her German boyfriend appeared to be 'in love'. Photo / Facebook
Anna Florence Reed and her German boyfriend appeared to be 'in love'. Photo / Facebook

While retired United States Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman has no connection to the case, he has spoken out about how such a dangerous act cannot be consented to, labelling strangulation as "foreplay for death".

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The expert in domestic violence and non-fatal strangulation cases said the risk of femicide, or the intentional killing of a female because of her gender, increased by 600 to 700 per cent once a woman had been non-fatally strangled once.

He described strangulation as being "on the edge of homicide".

"How can you consent to what is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette?" he said during a conference at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

"When there's an increase of 600 per cent (risk) when the person has been non-fatally strangled before, in my opinion the choking sex game thing … can't be legal.

Miss Reed - whose late grandfather is equine legend Guy Reed - had been heard arguing with her German boyfriend shortly before her death on Tuesday. Photo / Facebook
Miss Reed - whose late grandfather is equine legend Guy Reed - had been heard arguing with her German boyfriend shortly before her death on Tuesday. Photo / Facebook

"It is impossible in my opinion to have a person consent. You can't consent to something that is that dangerous any more than you can consent to Russian roulette, any more than you can consent to playing 'chicken' on a roadway where two cars are going towards each other at 100km/h to see which one is going to chicken out. You can't do it legally."

Auto-erotic asphyxiation involves couples using strangling or suffocation to heighten sexual arousal.

But the act can be performed individually, first gaining public attention following the death of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence in 1997.

While his death was ruled a suicide, Hutchence's widow later claimed his death may have resulted from autoerotic asphyxiation.

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Ms Reed is among more than 20 UK women to die in the sex game gone wrong in the past 10 years.

Social media posts revealed that Miss Reed had travelled extensively in the last few years. Photo / Facebook
Social media posts revealed that Miss Reed had travelled extensively in the last few years. Photo / Facebook

BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) moved more into the mainstream when Fifty Shades of Grey thrust it into the spotlight in 2011.

The popularity of the franchise has prompted commentators to ask whether it is appropriate to talk about "good" or "consensual" BDSM without taking into account the endemic levels of violence against women.

Judge Hyman said consent should not be able to be used as a defence in a strangulation case.

"If I were a judge handling a strangulation case and the defendant said 'my defence is consent', I would not permit the defence because in my opinion you can't consent to it," he said.

He stressed while his observations were based on the American justice system, any history of non-fatal strangulation should be taken into account when considering child custody issues.

"My personal belief is that if you've got non-fatal strangulation and domestic violence and there's a child custody issue, in my opinion that means that the batterer should not be able to make decisions regarding legal aspects — in other words, what school they go to, what religion, what medical treatment, all those kind of things, because that gives them power of control in terms of disagreeing with the other parent," he said.

Anna Florence Reed, 22, was found dead in the bathroom of the hotel where she was staying with her German boyfriend in the town of Lorcano. Photo / Facebook
Anna Florence Reed, 22, was found dead in the bathroom of the hotel where she was staying with her German boyfriend in the town of Lorcano. Photo / Facebook

Judge Hyman said of the many non-weapon tactics used in domestic violence, strangulation was one of the worst because it could be accomplished more easily and with less force while causing irreversible damage to hearing, eyesight, taste and smell.

He said most perpetrators did not strangle to kill but to show they could kill as a controlling behaviour.

Judge Hyman, who was also a police officer for five years, also said police who responded to domestic violence incidents needed to presume similar incidents had happened before, and their questions should reflect this.

Judge Hyman served on the Superior Court of Santa Clara County for 20 years and in 2008 became the first American to receive the United Nations Public Service Award.

He later gave evidence before the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.

An estimated million New Zealanders are directly affected by family violence every year and police attended 121,000 family violence callouts last year – one every four minutes.

Strangulation and suffocation on family members became an offence under legislation aimed at preventing family violence in New Zealand last year in November.

The offence, that is part of the Family Violence (Amendments) Act, was passed by Parliament in October.

The new offence of strangulation or suffocation, which was recommended by the Law Commission in 2016, recognises that attempts to stop a person from breathing in those ways is a significant risk factor for future violence and lethal force. It will carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

"It's often used as a way of coercing or controlling a person to create fear and send the message that the perpetrator has the ability to kill," Logie said.

The new law would allow authorities to hold perpetrators to account.

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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