‘Difficulties’ halt murder hearing

The victim Gary Francis Virr
The victim Gary Francis Virr

A SCARBOROUGH murder trial stalled yesterday after “difficulties” emerged in the proceedings.

John Stamford, 52, of Wooler Street, stands accused of the murder of Gary Virr, a 48-year-old former landscape gardener who lived in Eastborough.

On the third day of the trial at Leeds Crown Court, Justice Peter Openshaw called a temporary halt to its progress.

He told jurors: “All I can say is that there are difficulties which may or may not be solvable.

“I have given the parties until Monday morning to sort it all out. It is not very satisfactory. I am not going to tell you what those difficulties are.

“Do not try to read in to what I have said. There are some decisions I have to make and I have taken them.”

Justice Openshaw assured the jury that the trial would progress at 11am on Monday.

The jury has previously heard that Stamford accepts responsibility for the death of Mr Virr but denies murder.

Mr Virr’s body was found in his Eastborough flat on December 23 last year. Stamford was arrested on suspicion of murder the following day.

Prosecutor Deborah Sherwin has told the jury that Mr Virr died from suffocation after a bunny rabbit soft toy was wedged into his mouth on the night of December 19.

When the body was examined, 27 separate injuries, including fractures to a cheekbone and eye socket were discovered, although experts believe asphyxia was the cause of death.

At around 7pm on December 19 a police officer, PC Paul Rogers, visited Mr Virr’s flat after he was reported missing by his girlfriend.

He found Mr Virr cooking with Stamford but the officer said both men appeared happy and Mr Virr assured him he was fine.

Mr Virr told the officer that he did not want his girlfriend to know where he was and that she had been violent towards him in the past.

William Tait, who lived in the flat above Mr Virr, told the jury he heard a “shout or scream” coming from the block late on December 19 or in the early hours of December 20.

That night, a “rambling and upset” Stamford visited acquaintances in Queen’s Terrace wearing jeans that had red or brown stains on them, witnesses said.

It has been claimed that in the weeks before Mr Virr died, Stamford, who is known as ‘tattoo John’, had become “almost obsessed” with regaining custody of his baby daughter, who had been taken in to care.

On Tuesday Stamford’s estranged sister said her brother had asked her to care for the child in the weeks before Mr Virr’s death. Both Stramford and Mr Virr were part of a group of hardened drinkers from Scarborough who used to socialise together.

When Mr Virr died he had a series of health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver.

His body was discovered after his partner reported him missing for a second time and police went to his property.

The court heard that the soft toy which blocked Mr Virr’s airway would have killed him in minutes. The trial continues.