Ricardo Pisano: Murder accused 'feared fatwa'

Michael Polding Michael Polding died from "blunt force trauma" to his chest, the court heard

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A man accused of murdering a 62-year-old man fled the scene because he feared deportation to South Africa, a court has been told.

Ricardo Pisano, 36, told police that if he was deported he would be dead within a week because a "fatwa" had been issued against him by vigilantes.

Mr Pisano denies murdering Michael Polding, whose body was found by police in a Brighton flat in July last year.

He also denies grievous bodily harm but admits preventing burial of a body.

Mr Pisano said South African vigilante group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) had ordered his death because he was deemed troublesome or a threat, the court heard.

In police interviews played to the jury, Mr Pisano said he came back to the flat he shared with Mr Polding in St George's Road and found he had hanged himself from a banister in an apparent suicide.

Jurors were shown the position of the ligature round Mr Polding's neck in demonstrations Mr Pisano gave police using a cup, a lanyard and a pen.

'Family shot'

He told officers that after discovering Mr Polding's body, he feared for his life and remarked: "Oh no, not again."

He added: "If I'm deported to South Africa, I will be dead in a week.

"I fear that any of my family members will be shot."

Ricardo Pisano Ricardo Pisano denies murder and causing grievous bodily harm

Mr Pisano said that following the issuing of the "fatwa" he left South Africa and went to numerous countries, including New Zealand and the United States.

Asked what he meant by a "fatwa", he explained: "They want you dead in the name of their god."

He flew to the UK with a passport obtained under a different alias.

Mr Pisano told police he flew in to Britain in 2004 and lived mainly in London and Brighton and had not left the country since.

Asked why he had become the focus of a death warrant in South Africa, he told officers: "Being someone they felt was troublesome or a threat, they killed."

Mr Polding, who met the accused in December 2009 after he advertised himself in a gay magazine, died from a blunt trauma to his chest, the court has heard.

His badly decomposed body was found wrapped in bedding in his rented two-bedroom flat two months after his death.

Mr Pisano went on the run for nearly a year until he was arrested at a house in Southampton, on 7 May.

The trial continues.

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