Murder trial: further delay

THE defendant on trial for the murder of Scarborough man Gary Virr repeatedly told police that he did not have anything to do with his death, a jury heard yesterday.

John Stamford, 51, of Kealia Court in Wooler Street, was arrested on Christmas Eve last year, the day after 48-year-old Mr Virr’s body was discovered in his Eastborough flat.

Stamford has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Virr on the night of December 19.

In the days following his arrest, Stamford was interviewed at Scarborough police station by Detective Constable Vincent Morris five times.

Stamford told police that although he had visited Mr Virr on December 19, he had not been aware that he had been injured in any way.

On Boxing Day, DC Morris said to Stamford: “It is clear that Gary Virr died a violent death. He was repeatedly struck in the head with a weapon. There was lots of blood.”

Leeds Crown Court has heard that Mr Virr died from asphyxiation after a bunny rabbit soft toy was wedged into his mouth.

In the police interviews, Mr Virr was shown a picture of the toy and was asked whether he recognised it or knew what it was. He said: “I haven’t a clue.”

DC Morris later asked: “Did you push the item in his throat?” After Stamford denied that he had done so the policeman said: “I believe that it was yourself that was responsible. What were you thinking as you were pushing it down his throat?”

Stamford was also asked about his baby daughter, who had recently been taken into the care of social services.

Stamford told police the child was a “little diamond” and a “miracle come true” and that he had just “lay down, crying” when he heard the child would be taken away after the birth.

DC Morris asked Stamford whether the toy rabbit belonged to his daughter, who he still had contact with twice a week.

He said that it did not.

In interview Stamford also said he was “not a violent man” and that Mr Virr, who he claimed to have known for 18 months, was “an all right lad.”

The jury has also heard that when a toxicology examination of Mr Virr’s body was carried out, it was found that the amount of alcohol in his blood was three-and-a-half times more than the drink-drive limit.

Traces of diazepam, temazepam, tramadol and paracetamol were also found.

After the conclusion of the prosecution case yesterday, Justice Peter Openshaw called a temporary halt to proceedings.

He told the jury: “The long and short of it is we can’t make any further progress today. I can assure you everything possible is being done to get the case back on track.”

The trial continues.