A man accused of murdering a Brighton gay man fled the scene of the crime because he feared deportation to South Africa, a court has heard.

Ricardo Pisano, 36, told police he would be dead within a week because a “fatwa” had been issued against him by vigilantes in his native country.

Mr Pisano said the group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) had ordered his death because he was deemed ”troublesome or a threat”.

He told Lewes Crown Court this week that escaping the threats was the reason why he arrived in Britain in 2004.

Mr Pisano is on trial accused of murdering Michael Polding, 62, at his flat in St George’s Road, Brighton, last year.

In police interviews played to the jury, Mr Pisano said he came back to the flat he shared with Mr Polding 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 to police using a cup, a lanyard and a pen.

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.”

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

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.

Mr Pisano, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies murder and grievous bodily harm but has admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body.

The trial continues.

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