A gunman “smirked or laughed” after he walked up to a stranger and shot him through the head, a court heard today.
Kiaran Stapleton, 21, approached Indian student Anuj Bidve, 23, and his friends in the street in Salford and asked them at least once what the time was.
One of the group answered and without warning the defendant produced a gun, put it to the head of Mr Bidve and fired a shot, which killed him.
Mr Bidve was studying for a micro-electronics postgraduate qualification at Lancaster University after arriving in the UK last September and was spending last Christmas with friends in Manchester.
He was on his way from his hotel - walking through Ordsall, Salford - to the Boxing Day sales in Manchester city centre with a group of other Indian students when he was killed.
Opening the case, prosecutor Brian Cummings QC told Manchester Crown Court: "Anuj Bidve immediately fell to the ground, fatally injured.
"The gunman smirked or laughed and ran off."
He told the jury that Stapleton had pleaded guilty to his manslaughter three weeks ago but continues to deny murder.
The defence are likely to call expert psychological and psychiatric evidence in the trial, scheduled to last up to four weeks.
Mr Cummings added: "I will ask you to keep in mind as we go through evidence in this trial is that Kiaran Stapleton's eventual admission that he is the killer came at an advanced stage of proceedings, and only after a significant body of evidence had already been gathered against him."
The jury was told Stapleton made no admissions when he was first interviewed as a suspect.
But after being charged with murder and as time progressed he admitted he was the person who shot and killed Mr Bidve, the prosecutor said.
Mr Bidve was staying at a hotel in Salford with seven fellow Indian students and one Pakistani student.
They arrived on Christmas Eve and at about 11.30pm the next day the girls in the group decided they wanted to go shopping in the Boxing Day sales, Mr Cummings said.
They set off some time after midnight to get a place in the queues but did not know the area and used a GPS phone to guide them.
Their route took them along Ordsall Lane in the direction of Regent Road.
Walking in groups of two and three, they became aware of two males who were walking in the opposite direction.
"As the two males got nearer to them, one of them crossed the road diagonally in their direction, leaving the other male alone on the far side," said the prosecutor.
The court heard that after one of the group told him it was 1.30am, Mr Bidve was shot.
The student was taken to hospital and later certified dead.
Mr Bidve's friends gave descriptions of the gunman and the second male, Ryan Holden, who was with Stapleton, and officers trawled CCTV footage from the area.
Holden was arrested on December 28 and Stapleton the day after.
Holden told officers he was afraid for his own safety and that of his family, but after being given reassurances began to answer questions, Mr Cummings told the jury, and his status changed from suspect to prosecution witness.
Holden told police his cousin, Chelsea Holden, had been in a long-term relationship with Stapleton and they had a child together but had split up.
In the hours before the shooting, Stapleton and Holden spent Christmas night with friends "chilling" and having a drink.
Around midnight the pair left the house and went to get some food from a local McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken shop at the top of Ordsall Lane just as Mr Bidve and his party walked up the same stretch of road.
"Their path was about to cross that of Kiaran Stapleton and Ryan Holden," Mr Cummings said.
Both the food shops were closed and Holden told police they "decided to call it a night" and head to their homes on the Ordsall estate.
But, Mr Cummings told the jury, as the two men walked down Ordsall Lane, Stapleton said to his friend: "Let me put your hat on."
Stapleton took the hat and put it on.
Holden said he then noticed a group of people who were "dark-skinned" on the opposite side of the road. They were "not dressed like Salford people" and "seemed to be having a laugh", the court heard.
Mr Cummings continued: "As they drew almost level with this group, Kiaran Stapleton said to Ryan Holden 'Wait here a minute.'
"Kiaran Stapleton then walked across the road.
"He couldn't hear anything that was said but he saw Kiaran Stapleton raise his arm and make a gesture as though he was asking the time.
"He, Kiaran Stapleton, moved back a little and Ryan Holden again saw Kiaran Stapleton raise an arm, he couldn't remember if it was the same arm, stretch it out, as if he was going to shoot and then Ryan Holden heard a loud shot.
"He also heard a lot of screaming and then Kiaran Stapleton ran back towards him, shouting 'Run!' - but he was already running, he said.
"Ryan Holden says that he did not know before the shot was fired that Kiaran Stapleton had a gun."
The pair ran through the Ordsall Estate using back alleys and short cuts to get to Stapleton's house at 15 Regent Square.
They went straight to the gunman's room at the top of the house.
Holden was "panicking" but Stapleton told him to "chill the f*** out" or "shut the f*** up", followed by "don't fold on me", the jury heard.
Stapleton took a shower and told Holden to do the same, after which Holden's own clothes had vanished and a new set provided for him.
Holden's bag that he had with him on the night also disappeared, the court heard.
Both men stayed the night at Stapleton's address and remained on the estate until lunchtime the next day when they left to go to Leigh, a town 15 miles west of Salford, staying there overnight before returning to the city the next morning and splitting up, keeping in contact by text message.
On his return to Salford, Stapleton booked into the Campanile Hotel, not far from where he shot Mr Bidve dead. CCTV footage from the hotel showed him looking out of the windows in the direction of the crime scene.
On the afternoon of December 28, two days after the shooting, Stapleton was picked up by car from the hotel to go to the Candy Skull tattoo shop in Swinton, Salford, and had a tear drop design inked on to the side of his face, the court heard.
Mr Cummings continued: "The tattoo shop staff remember his visit because of his behaviour and that of other members of the group and also because of the nature of the tattoo which, amongst other possible meanings, can signify that the wearer has killed someone.
"This was pointed out to Kiaran Stapleton, in an effort to ensure that this was really what he wanted, and he said words to the effect that he had killed his goldfish, did that count?
"The tattoo was done for him, as he requested, and he left the shop."
After his arrest in Leigh by armed police in the early hours of December 29, Stapleton largely replied "no comment".
But when told that Mr Holden had given detectives an account of the shooting, he said: "So I suppose Ryan will be under the ... how do you want to put it ... the witness protection? Cos he's gonna need a hell more than that."
When he was taken to Manchester Magistrates' Court for his first appearance he looked up and shouted to someone in the public gallery: "Ryan's made a statement", Mr Cummings said.
He continued: "A short while later the court clerk asked if his name was Kiaran Stapleton and he replied, 'No, Psycho. Psycho Stapleton'."
The prosecutor said he anticipated Stapleton's defence team would raise the partial defence of diminished responsibility but the Crown do not accept this was a case of manslaughter.
"The prosecution say that if you deliberately discharge a loaded firearm into someone's head at close quarters you must intend to cause really serious injury or death, because that is the only possible result.
"For the avoidance of doubt, the prosecution case is that Kiaran Stapleton intended to kill.
"The prosecution will say therefore that all of the ingredients of the offence of murder are made out in this case."
Mr Cummings concluded by telling the jury of seven men and five women that one issue they would have to consider was if Stapleton killed Mr Bidve because "he had in some way lost control".
Mr Bidve's parents, Subhash and Yogini, flew from their home in Pune, India, to attend the trial and listened intently from the front row of the public gallery, out of sight of the defendant who sat in the dock flanked by four prison officers.
The trial continues tomorrow.