Property developer told prostitute about murder, court heard

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A property developer confessed to a prostitute that he murdered a caretaker because he "was in the way and he had to go," the Old Bailey heard today.

Thanos Papalexis told escort Rebecca DeFalco in a Florida hotel that he and two henchmen killed Charalambos Christodoulides, 55, because he would not move out of a £2m building he was trying to sell, it was alleged.

Christodoulides was last seen before contracts were exchanged for the disused warehouse in Kilburn, north west London.

His body was found in March 2000 in a garage inspection pit in the complex, he had been tied to a chair, tortured and strangled to death.

Papalexis, 36, of Palm Beach, Florida, and failed Kosova Albanian asylum seekers Ylli Xhelo, 36, unemployed and of now fixed address, and Robert Baxhija, 29, a painter of Sidney Avenue, Palmers Green, north London, deny murder.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said "Miss DeFalco was a prostitute working as a 'escort' in the Miami Beach area.

"The defendant answered an advertisement and they arranged to meet for sex in a hotel in Palm Beach.

"Papalexis told Miss DeFalco that he was in the shipping and oil business.

"Later he also spoke of working for the CIA and the British intelligence services.

"Their relationship developed very quickly, with Papalexis effectively paying her only to sleep with him and thereafter they would meet, for the next three months, about three times a week".

Mr Laidlaw said that the relationship came to an end in June 2004 although they continued to speak for sometime and see each other occasionally through to 2007.

Mr Laidlaw said: "The confession was made at the end of May 2004 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach.

"Papalexis was supposed to stay the week at the hotel but his visit was cut short by business commitments elsewhere, this gave rise to arguments and to Papalexis becoming angry and kicking at things in the room.

"At that point Miss DeFalco asked him, 'Have you ever killed anybody'. She asked because of the work the defendant claimed to do and did not expect an answer.

"Quite unexpectedly Papalexis walked over to her and said, 'Yes, I have'. He said it was an innocent man, a 'nobody' who was watching a building.

"The defendant explained that the murder had something to do with a building and the man who had been killed was in the way and he had to go".

Miss DeFalco said nothing about Papalexis' alleged confession until after he had been arrested in December 2008.

Mr Laidlaw said: "Papalexis told DeFalco that the man would not die quickly and they beat him some more whilst he was being strangled.

"The defendant said it took a long time and there was a lot of blood.

"He spoke of turning his back whilst the strangling happened but he had to involve himself because the man did not die".