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Briton claims hotel killing was self-defence

Singapore (Reuter) - A Briton accused of murdering a South African tourist and dumping his dismembered corpse in the harbour here told police he killed in self-defence, a court heard yesterday. The defendant claimed a friend, whom he refused to identify, later disposed of the body, police said.

John Martin, also known as John Martin Scripps, faces the death sentence if convicted by the Singapore court of murdering brewery engineer Gerard George Lowe, 32. The prosecution alleges Mr Martin, used a false name checked in to the same hotel room as Mr Lowe on 8 March and later murdered him. Police said Mr Martin admitted he killed Mr Lowe just after he checked in to the room, which they had agreed to share to save money.

Mr Martin's written statement was read out in court by an investigating officer.

Mr Martin claimed the killing was an unpremeditated response to unwanted homosexual advances, police said. He had said that Mr Lowe attacked him with his own camping hammer before dropping it on the floor.

"He then came towards me and I used the hammer ... to hit him several times on the head until he collapsed on to the carpeted floor," Mr Martin said, according to the statement. "I then panicked." Mr Martin, 35, said he visited a British friend at another hotel whom he later paid to clear up the mess.

"Some time later ... my friend returned and told me that there was nothing to worry about as he had already got rid of Lowe's body ... by throwing it into a river," Mr Martin said in the statement.

"On returning to my hotel room, I found everything neat and tidy," he said. "Mr Lowe's body was no longer there." Police said Mr Martin was asked to identify the friend and replied: "I cannot tell you his identity because if he knew he would harm my family back in Britain."

Police witnesses testified on Tuesday that when he was arrested, Mr Martin had several passports, two of which belonged to Canadians Sheila Mae Damude and her son, Darin, whose dismembered bodies were found in Phuket, Thailand, in March. Thai police have issued a warrant for Mr Martin's arrest.

Asked about the Canadians whose passports he was carrying, Mr Martin said that he had never met them. He said they had been given to him by his British friend.