Accused Briton fears drug gang will kill family

STEPHEN VINES

Singapore

John Martin Scripps, the 35-year-old Briton accused of murdering a South African and two Canadians, gave evidence for the first time yesterday in Singapore's Supreme Court.

He claimed that members of his family could be killed by a drugs gang if he revealed the name of an accomplice who, he alleges, disposed of the body of his South African victim.

Mr Scripps, who is also known as John Martin, admitted that he killed Gerard George Lowe, 32, a South African brewery employee who was holidaying in Singapore. However, he claimed that Mr Lowe's body was "disarticulated" by an unnamed British "friend" who he said was an associate from the past when he "was doing drugs".

He claimed he would be labelled as a "grass" if he named the man, who he alleges is involved in a number of criminal activities and was supposed to have helped him buy clothes for a shop that he was opening in Mexico.

Speaking hesitantly, and barely audible, Mr Scripps told the court: "I know what these people are capable of. I just can't give the person's name. It's my life or my family's. I suppose it will have to be mine."

His lawyer, Edmond Pereira, is trying to establish that Mr Lowe's murder was unpremeditated. Mr Scripps has denied killing two Canadians - Sheila Damude, 49, and her son Darin, 23 - in the Thai resort of Phuket. However, yesterday he admitted - for the first time - that he had met the couple and shared a taxi with them from the airport to the hotel where he occupied an adjacent room and, after they disappeared, moved into their room.

The court has heard evidence that the bodies of the Damudes were expertly chopped up, as was the body of Mr Lowe. A British witness has also testified how he taught butchery skills to Mr Scripps while he was in prison.

However, Mr Scripps said: "I didn't cut the body up. I've worked in a butcher's but this is totally different."

He claims that he accidentally killed Mr Lowe with a 3.3lb hammer after he woke up to find the South African touching his backside and smiling at him. The two men had met at Singapore's international airport and Mr Scripps said he agreed to share a hotel room with him because accommodation was hard to obtain and he wanted to save money. "I just freaked out," he said. "I've had experience of such things in the past and I was very frightened."

He claimed that an Israeli soldier tried to rape him while he was in an Israeli prison in 1978 for non-payment of a fine. Mr Scripps also said that two men attempted to rape him in prison in Britain last year while he was taking a shower. "I tried to fight. I locked myself in my cell for a couple of days after," he said. "I'm not gay, I don't believe in that sort of thing."

Mr Lowe's widow has testified that her husband is not gay. The trial continues.

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