Fugitive Briton 'butchered body of tourist'

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The Independent Online
A British fugitive and alleged international serial killer went on trial in Singapore yesterday charged with killing a tourist and chopping up his body.

The prosecution said it would prove that John Scripps, 35, who denies the murder of Gerard Lowe, a South African, had undertaken a prison course in butchery in Britain and had "quickly mastered" the skills. If convicted, Scripps faces a mandatory death sentence.

Scripps, who sat hunched in a steel and glass cage at the High Court, is also wanted in Thailand, where he has been charged with the murder of two Canadian tourists - Sheila Damude, 49, a teacher from Victoria, British Columbia, and her son, Darin, aged 23.

Their dismembered remains were discovered on the island of Phuket in March. Their passports and other items were in Scripps's possession when he was arrested in Singapore.

Scripps is alleged to have befriended Mr Lowe, a brewery engineer from Johannesburg who arrived on a shopping trip on 8 March at Singapore's airport and then checked into a central hotel with him to share a room. Jennifer Marie, for the prosecution, told Judge T S Sinnathuray that Scripps killed Mr Lowe in the hotel between 8 March and early on 9 March.

After the alleged murder, Scripps flew to Thailand but then returned to Singapore and was arrested on 19 March.

The murder came to light when a torso, thighs severed at the hips and legs chopped at the knees were found in plastic bags in Singapore harbour on 13 March and 16 March. The head was not found.

Ms Marie told the court that Scripps had used his butchery skills to chop up Mr Lowe's body, possibly using a small knife with a serrated blade.

She said she would call as a witness James Quigley, a British prison caterer who would testify that in 1993 he taught Scripps "butchery skills which the accused had mastered quickly".

Apparently to pre-empt a defence that Scripps killed Mr Lowe to prevent homosexual advances, the prosecution put Mr Lowe's widow, Vanessa Lynn, on the witness stand. She testified that Mr Lowe, 32, disliked gays. "We had a healthy sexual life. He was definitely not a homosexual," said Mrs Lowe.

Another witness, Chao Tzee Cheng, a senior Singapore pathologist, told the court that the person who dismembered Mr Lowe was either a doctor, a veterinary surgeon or a butcher. He added: "I told police, 'Look, you are dealing with a serial killer'."

He said it was possible for such a person to cleave the body at bone joints using the two stainless steel knives with 10cm (4ins) serrated blades that were found in Scripps's bags.

The accused is also being investigated in connection with murders in Mexico and San Francisco. One inquiry links him to the disappearance of Timothy McDowall, 28, and another Briton in Mexico.

Scripps, who lived in London, was serving a 13-year sentence for heroin trafficking when he absconded during weekend leave in October 1994.

The trial continues today.