A man beat his heavily pregnant ex-girlfriend to death and killed their unborn child in a "brutal and sustained" attack, a court has been told.

Fuelled by alcohol and cannabis, Tony McLernon arranged to meet Eystna Blunnie in a street in Harlow, Essex, in the early hours of June 27 last year, prosecutor Andrew Jackson told Chelmsford Crown Court.

The couple had recently broken up after an abusive relationship and he knew she was pregnant with his child.

Opening the trial, Mr Jackson added: "He repeatedly kicked and stamped on her in an act of brutal and sustained violence. He knew he was not only killing her but their unborn child as well."

After the killings, McLernon hid in nearby woodlands and sent a text message to his father saying: "I'm scared."

He later spoke to his father on the phone and told him: "I think I've killed Eystna," the court heard.

Ms Blunnie, 20, who was due to give birth within days, was found with severe head and facial in Howard Way, Harlow, just minutes from her home. She was taken to hospital but died. Residents living nearby reported hearing screaming and punching noises on the morning of the alleged attack.

The catering student, who also worked as a barmaid and waitress, met McLernon in 2010 and by April the following year they were in a relationship. By July they were engaged to be married and in October she discovered she was pregnant.

But Mr Jackson told jurors: "It was a relationship marked by controlling, bullying and violent behaviour on the part of this defendant towards Eystna. Within a month of the relationship beginning, family members saw Eystna with bruising to her arm and within that bruising they saw the outline of knuckles."

McLernon, 24, from North Grove, Harlow, denies murdering Ms Blunnie and a charge of child destruction by wilfully causing the death of an unborn child.