Murder trial man 'a skilled butcher'

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Two steel knives found on a British fugitive implicated in a string of international murders were "perfect" for cutting up limbs, a prison official adept at butchery told a Singapore court yesterday.

John Scripps is charged with killing a South African tourist, Gerard Lowe, in a Singapore hotel room in March. Mr Lowe's headless torso, thighs and legs were found floating in plastic rubbish bags in the Singapore harbour about a week after the murder.

James Quigley, a caterer for 20 years at the Albany prison on the Isle of Wight, said that he and a professional butcher taught Scripps butchery skills after he went to the prison in February 1992 while serving a 13-year sentence for drug trafficking. Scripps escaped about a year ago.

If found guilty, Scripps faces a mandatory death sentence.

He has also been charged in Thailand with murdering a Canadian tourist and her son a few days after the Lowe murder. The hacked-up bodies of the two were found near their hotel in a Thai resort. Scripps has also been linked with a murder in Mexico. He was in the resort of Cancun when a financial consultant from London went missing there just as a large sum was transferred from the consultant's London bank to a California bank.

Scripps allegedly befriended Mr Lowe when he arrived in Singapore on a shopping trip, shared the hotel room with him and killed him to steal his credit cards.

Mr Quigley told the High Court that Scripps was a "quick learner and competent" at his job of dissecting and deboning beef, pork and chicken.

When Jennifer Marie, for the prosecution, showed Mr Quigley two steel knives with serrated 4-inch blades found in Scripps's bags, he said they would be "perfect instruments for dissecting and de-boning".

The prosecution says that after killing Mr Lowe, Scripps used his butcher's skills to dismember the body at the joints and pack them in a suitcase before disposing of the parts.

The trial continues.