Briton in murder trial to face new evidence

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The Independent Online

Associated Press

Lawyers defending a British fugitive linked to a string of murders across the world suggested yesterday that Singapore police may have botched an investigation into the killing and dismembering of the South African he has confessed to bludgeoning.

Lawyers for John Martin Scripps also said they might object to new evidence the prosecution wants to produce on Monday, apparently from Thailand, where Scripps is charged with a double murder.

Scripps, 35, is a convicted drug trafficker and has also been linked to the murder of a British tourist in Cancun, Mexico.

In the Singapore High Court on Wednesday, Scripps admitted killing Gerard Lowe, an engineer from Johannesburg.

But his confession does not explain how Mr Lowe's headless torso, legs and thighs were found floating in Singapore harbour, packed in black plastic bags.

Scripps claims he battered Mr Lowe with a camping hammer when he made homosexual advances while they were sharing a hotel room on 8 March. He says Mr Lowe fell on the carpet and bled from the head.

But police witnesses have said there was no trace of blood on the carpet, but only in the bathroom, suggesting that the murder was premeditated.

If convicted, he faces the mandatory death sentence. But if Scripps's story is true, the defence can hope for a reduced charge of manslaughter that carries a maximum life imprisonment. On the fourth day of the trial, Edmond Pereira, for the defence, cross-examined two police officers in an attempt to show that they did not examine the carpet thoroughly enough to find traces of blood next to the bed where Scripps claims Mr Lowe fell.

The prosecution has built its case so far on the testimony of a British prison caterer who taught Scripps butchery skills in 1993 while he was serving a 13-year sentence for drug smuggling. He escaped from another low-security prison last year.

A government pathologist testified that Mr Lowe's body parts were cut up professionally, indicating it was dismembered either by a doctor or a veterinary surgeon or a butcher.

The trial was adjourned until Monday for defence lawyers to prepare their case against the purported new evidence that the prosecution has obtained from Thailand.

The evidence is believed to be linked to the deaths of tourists Sheila Damude, 49, a teacher from British Columbia, Canada, and her son Darin, 23, in the Thai resort of Phuket. Their bodies were also hacked up in a similar fashion to Mr Lowe's.