Toy rabbit ‘used as a murder weapon’

The murder scene on Eastborough
The murder scene on Eastborough

A BUNNY rabbit soft toy was used as a weapon in the brutal murder of a Scarborough man, a jury was told yesterday.

John Stamford, 52, of Kelia Court in Wooler Street, is alleged to have killed 48-year-old former landscape gardener Gary Virr between December 18 and December 21 last year.

North Yorkshire Police supplied photograph of Gary Francis Virr, the 48-year-old man found dead in a ground floor flat at Eastborough in Scarborough on 23 December 2010.

North Yorkshire Police supplied photograph of Gary Francis Virr, the 48-year-old man found dead in a ground floor flat at Eastborough in Scarborough on 23 December 2010.

His trial, which began yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, heard that Stamford will accept responsibility for Mr Virr’s death, but denies murder.

The toy, which depicted two bunny rabbits holding hands, was discovered in the mouth of Mr Virr when his body was discovered at his first-floor flat in Eastborough on December 23.

Prosecutor Deborah Sherwin told the jury of eight men and four women that although Mr Virr had 27 separate injuries when his body was found, experts believed the toy had caused his death.

She said: “It had been tightly wedged into his mouth. It had the effect of totally blocking his airway.

“Although his eye socket was fractured in two places and there was a further fracture to his cheek bone, the opinion is that the death was caused by asphyxia due to the soft toy.”

Miss Sherwin said that Mr Virr’s girlfriend had reported him missing on December 19. A police officer attended his Eastborough address and found Stamford and Mr Virr together in the kitchen.

“Mr Virr said he did not want his girlfriend to know where he was. All appeared to be all right,” Miss Sherwin added.

In the early morning of the following day however, Stamford appeared at the address of Stephen Thomas, in Queen’s Terrace, and said “I think I’ve killed someone”, Miss Sherwin said.

She said an “on edge and upset” Stamford then knocked on the door of another Queen’s Terrace resident, Daniel McKenna, before approaching another resident, Steven King, who allowed him entry and gave Stamford a pair of jeans to replace his, which were blood stained.

Mr Virr’s body was discovered on December 23 at his Eastborough home after his girlfriend reported him missing for a second time.

Describing the discovery, Miss Sherwin said: “The officer noticed blood on a communal door, a bannister and walls.

“He went into the flat and found the body on top of a mattress in the middle of the lounge floor. His face and head were covered in blood.”

After he was arrested on Christmas Eve, Stamford told police he has nothing to do with Mr Virr’s death and had been referring to his father, who he had learned had suffered a stroke, if he said he had killed someone.

The court heard evidence from Stamford’s estranged sister, Angela Stephenson, who told the court that she had rebuffed her brother’s requests for her to look after his baby daughter, so she would not be taken into care, in the weeks before Mr Virr’s death.

Eric Thompson, an acquaintance of Stamford, told the court that Stamford had become “obsessed” with regaining custody of the baby.

He added: “He used to get really uptight about it because he wanted a last chance.”

The trial, which is expected to last for two weeks, continues.