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Singapore executes Briton for murder

John Martin Scripps, 35, today became the first Westerner to hang for murder in Singapore. Scripps, from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, was found guilty last November of killing Gerard Lowe, a South African who he befriended on arrival at the island state's airport.

Mr Lowe's body was surgically dissected, using butchery skills Scripps acquired in the Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight. Although not on trial for any other murders, the Singapore court heard that the shy-looking Scripps had also murdered and chopped up the bodies of a mother and son on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

Scripps pleaded innocent to murder and spent days in the witness box giving an unconvincing account of his innocence. However, contrary to expectation, he made no appeal against his sentence nor sought clemency from the president of Singapore. His family also had the option to appeal on his behalf but did not do so.

The dawn execution took place at the Changi jail, very close to the airport where Scripps picked up his victim. Executions are held every week, on Fridays. Few are for crimes of violence, most of those hanged are drug traffickers.

Scripp's route to the gallows followed a life of petty crime, mainly drug dealing, which took him across the world, often to the heroin growing areas of northern Thailand and also to Mexico where he tried to patch up a failed marriage with his Mexican wife. He was also a suspect in the murder of a Briton visitor to a holiday resort in Mexico.

Most of the evidence at Scripps' trial was provided by himself as he carefully carried the murder weapon and the belongings of his victims from Singapore to Thailand and back to Singapore again.

Although Scripps often appeared be both naive and foolish during his trial, he demonstrated considerable ingenuity in selecting victims whose whereabouts would be unlikely to be noticed for some time and who were likely to be carrying reasonably large sums of money. He stole both cash and credit cards from the people he killed.

On the night he murdered Mr Lowe he coolly treated himself to a steak dinner in the coffee shop of the restaurant of the hotel where the murder took place, booked tickets for a classical concert given by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and later spent some time in the room where he killed his victim, looking over notebook computers with a salesman from a local shop hoping to selling him a number of models.

At the time of the murders Scripps had absconded from prison in Britain after failing to return after being granted home leave. His mother, Jean Scripps, said she warned the Home Office that her son would abscond if he was let out. She attended the early stages of his trial but left before the end.