Murder accused 'got killer tattoo'

A gunman who labelled himself "Psycho" in court had a "killer" tattoo inked on his face two days after shooting dead a stranger through the head at close range, a jury heard today.

Kiaran Stapleton, 21, walked up to Indian student Anuj Bidve, 23, and his friends in the street in Ordsall, Salford, in the early hours of Boxing Day last year.

He asked them the time and when someone answered he pulled out a gun without warning, put it to Mr Bidve's head and fired one shot.

Stapleton then "smirked or laughed" before he ran off to his nearby family home, Manchester Crown Court heard.

While still at large, just two days later he went to a tattoo shop in Swinton and had a teardrop design put on his right cheek.

Prosecutor Brian Cummings QC said staff remembered the visit because the nature of the tattoo can signify that the wearer has killed someone.

He said: "This was pointed out to Kiaran Stapleton, in an effort to ensure that this was really what he wanted, and he said words to the effect that he had killed his goldfish, did that count?"

The next day the defendant was arrested and initially denied being the killer before he was charged with Mr Bidve's murder.

When he made his first appearance at Manchester Magistrates' Court he was asked if his name was Kiaran Stapleton and replied: "No, Psycho. Psycho Stapleton."

Stapleton later admitted he was the person who pulled the trigger and three weeks ago pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but denies murder.

Mr Bidve was studying for a micro-electronics postgraduate qualification at Lancaster University after arriving in the UK last September and had travelled over with eight fellow students to spend Christmas in Manchester.

They arrived at their hotel in Salford on Christmas Eve and at about 11.30pm the next day the girls in the group decided they wanted to go shopping in the Boxing Day sales, Mr Cummings said.

They set off some time after midnight to get a place in the queues but did not know the area and used a GPS phone to guide them.

Their route took them along Ordsall Lane in the direction of Regent Road.

Walking in groups of two and three, they became aware of two males who were walking in the opposite direction.

"As the two males got nearer to them, one of them crossed the road diagonally in their direction, leaving the other male alone on the far side," said the prosecutor.

The court heard that after one of the group told him it was 1.30am, Mr Bidve was shot.

The student was taken to hospital and later pronounced dead.

Mr Bidve's friends gave descriptions of the gunman and the second male, Ryan Holden, who was with Stapleton, and officers trawled CCTV footage from the area.

Mr Holden was arrested on December 28 and Stapleton the day after.

Mr Holden told officers he was afraid for his own safety and that of his family, but after being given reassurances began to answer questions, Mr Cummings told the jury, and his status changed from suspect to prosecution witness.

He recalled Stapleton becoming angry in the hours before the shooting when he was told his ex-partner, Mr Holden's cousin, had slept with another man.

When told by detectives that Mr Holden had given police an account of the shooting, Stapleton said: "So I suppose Ryan will be under the ... how do you want to put it ... the witness protection? Cos he's gonna need a hell (of a lot) more than that."

The prosecutor said he anticipated Stapleton's defence team would raise the partial defence of diminished responsibility during the trial but the Crown did not accept this was a case of manslaughter.

He said: "The prosecution say that if you deliberately discharge a loaded firearm into someone's head at close quarters you must intend to cause really serious injury or death, because that is the only possible result.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the prosecution case is that Kiaran Stapleton intended to kill.

"The prosecution will say therefore that all of the ingredients of the offence of murder are made out in this case."

Mr Bidve's parents, Subhash and Yogini, flew from their home in Pune, India, to attend the trial and listened intently from the front row of the public gallery, out of sight of the defendant who sat in the dock flanked by four prison officers.

The trial, scheduled to last up to four weeks.

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