The trial of a Hungarian tourist who allegedly killed a 69-year-old gay man with a banjo has begun today in the Auckland High Court.

The man on trial, Ferdinand Ambach, is accused of beating Ronald James Brown around the head with a 2.7kg banjo, before shoving the neck repeatedly down his throat.

Brown died in hospital three days later after the attack in December 2007 when his life support machine was turned off.

Ambach has denied the charges and claims to be able to only remember parts of what happened that night.

The prosecutor for the case, Nick Williams, told the jury that a “misunderstanding” had erupted between the two men, when they went back to Brown’s house after meeting in a bar in the Onehunga district of Auckland. The misunderstanding appeared to be Brown’s incorrect assumption that Ambach was gay.

According to Williams, neighbours called the police after hearing violent disturbances in Brown’s flat. When the police arrived they found Brown severely injured and bleeding profusely, while Ambach, who was swearing loudly in Hungarian, threw furniture, including a double bed, through an upstairs window.

Ambach’s defence lawyer, Peter Kaye, said that the jury must consider the possibility that the Hungarian man suffered a “sudden and temporary loss of self control”, which would make the case one of manslaughter, rather than murder.

The trial is due to sit for three weeks.