Identity-swap murder jury to view yacht

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The Independent Online
A YACHT at the centre of an identity-swap murder trial is to be inspected by the jury, it was decided yesterday.

The eight women and four men trying Albert Walker, a 52-year-old Canadian businessman, at Exeter Crown Court will view his 24ft cruiser Lady Jane one morning next week.

Charles Barton QC, for the prosecution, and Richard Ferguson QC, for the defence, both said they wanted the jury to see the craft, which is out of the water at an undisclosed location.

The Crown alleged during the first week of the trial that Mr Walker, who fled to Britain to escape marital and financial problems in Canada, murdered Ronald Platt - whose identity he had assumed.

Mr Barton has alleged that Mr Walker, who kept the Lady Jane on a mooring on the river Dart in south Devon, took Mr Platt out sailing on 20 July 1996, and put him "over the side" of the vessel, weighing him down with a 10lb anchor.

Mr Platt's body was hauled up off Teignmouth, south Devon, in the nets of the Brixham fishing vessel Malkerry on 28 July 1996, and was identified via his Rolex watch.

Mr Walker, from Woodham Walter in Essex, denies murdering Mr Platt between 18 and 22 July 1996.

Dr Bob Allen, a lecturer and specialist in river and ocean hydraulics from University College, Swansea, said the body would have sunk to the sea-bed in about 30 seconds if the anchor had been attached to it.

The body would have not moved at all in the tides and currents if it had been weighed down with the anchor, he told the jury.

Barry Hall, manager of the Sport Nautique chandlery in Dartmouth, south Devon, said that on 8 July 1996, a customer using the name Platt bought seven items by credit card, including a 10lb plough anchor.

Patrick Gill, who served the customer, said the man had a Canadian accident.

Mr Gill said he recommended a heavier anchor to the customer, who told him he had a motor cruiser. But the customer, he said, decided the 10lb anchor "would be adequate."

The prosecution has alleged that Mr Walker assumed Mr Platt's identity after paying him to start a new life in Canada, but then murdered him when he returned to Britain.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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