THE result of one Christchurch council seat came down to pulling a name out of a hat today.

It was an election Christchurch Liberal Democrats will be unable to forget with the loss of stalwart Christine Payne from Stanpit Ward, Alan Wright from Mudeford and John Freeman from Grange after a double recount cliffhanger.

Independent newcomer Julie Petrie, who heads the FROGS community group, topped the Grange Ward poll with 412 votes at the Thursday night count.

But Liberal Democrat John Freeman and Conservative Denise Jones were level with 374 votes apiece.

A recount produced the same result so a second recount was organised for Friday morning.

That, too, resulted in a dead heat so the decision was taken to draw the name of the win ner.

And the name out of the hat was Denise Jones, who will take her seat in the council chamber on Wednesday.

The result means Conservatives have 18 seats, the Liberal Democrats four and Independents three.

Mrs Jones said: "I would have preferred it if there had been a clear difference between the two of us, but the returning officer has followed the rules and I am sorry for Cllr Freeman because I know how he must feel."

The wife of Highcliffe Ward councillor David Jones who retained his seat, it was the third time she had stood for election in the ward.

On the podium, after the results had been officially announced by returning offi cer, council chief executive Mike Turvey, Julie Petrie thanked the electorate of Grange Ward for voting for her.

Mrs Jones also thanked the electorate, her husband and her friends on the campaign trail.

"I promised the people I met that I would serve them whether I won or I lost. In this case, I serve them as council lor, and I hope I will do it well," she said.

A clearly upset Mr Freeman said: "It's been a great plea sure to represent Grange Ward for the last four years and to help them with the very many special problems that exist."