Ricardo Pisano, the South African man accused of murdering gay 62-year-old Michael Polding, broke down in tears as he recalled the moment he found him dead.

Mr Pisano, 36, claims he did not kill Mr Polding but found him hanging from a banister after returning from a walk on a beach, Lewes Crown Court heard yesterday.

On 29 May last year, Mr Pisano claims he returned from the beach to find that Mr Polding had killed himself at his Brighton home.

“He was hanging from the stairs, the banister,” Mr Pisano said to the jury. “My whole world stopped really. I was in trouble because St Mikes is hanged.”

Mr Pisano said his nickname for Mr Polding was “St Mikes”. The 36-year-old broke down in tears as he described lifting Mr Polding down and trying to resuscitate him, but he said he could not hear him breathing or feel a pulse, the court heard.

He said: “At that time, I did not know what to feel, I just wanted him to start breathing.

“I tried CPR. I tried my best with that; that was not working. I tried four strikes to the chest. That also did not work. My head was all over the place.”

Mr Pisano told the court he said a prayer before crossing Mr Polding’s hands over his body, covering him with a tartan towel and wrapping him in a duvet.

He went on the run for nearly a year until he was arrested in Southampton on 7 May.

The defendant said he knew he could not call an ambulance because the police would have been alerted to the fact that he was in the country illegally, and he would be deported back to South Africa, the court heard.

He said: “I felt like I was coward leaving him. I did not want to leave him like that and I switched the clock radio on because I knew he liked classical music.”

William Mousley QC, defending, said: “What was your state of mind at the time?”

The accused replied: “I was not thinking at all. I just knew I was in trouble. Now the police are going to get involved and I am homeless and my friend had just died. I was not thinking at all.”

Earlier in proceedings, Mr Pisano told the court he did not consider himself gay but did believe the pair to be friends.

The court heard that the two men had a complicated relationship which began in 2009 when Mr Polding answered an advert in a gay magazine for a male prostitute.

Mr Pisano said he had been jailed in New Zealand for extortion, then lived in Australia for 18 months and arrived in the UK illegally in 2004.

He claimed Mr Polding knew about some of his past, including that he feared for his life if he returned to South Africa.

Ricardo 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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