A rent boy has claimed the Brighton man he is accused of bleeding dry financially and murdering wanted to marry him, a court has heard.
Ricardo Pisano (r) said Michael Polding (l) not only gave him money to send to his family in South Africa but also offered to marry him in order to sort out his “visa issues” so he could stay in the UK, a jury was told.
Pisano, 36, dubbed the South African Artful Dodger after he fled a New Zealand prison, is accused of murdering 62-year-old Mr Polding at his Brighton flat and going on the run for nearly a year.
Mr Polding’s badly decomposed body was found by police neatly positioned and wrapped up in bedding in his rented two-bedroom flat in St George’s Road on July 16 last year, although he is believed to have died two months earlier from “blunt force trauma” to his chest.
Pisano, formerly of Methuen Street, Southampton, was arrested on May 7. He denies murder and causing grievous bodily harm but has admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body, the jury has heard.
Giving evidence at Lewes Crown Court, Pisano said he met Mr Polding in December 2009 after advertising himself as a rent boy in a gay magazine to get himself out of financial difficulty.
Even though he is not homosexual, Polding paid him for sexual services and they became friends, so much so that Pisano took to calling him St Mikes and eventually moved into his Croydon home when he needed somewhere to stay, he told the court.
“When I met St Mikes I was at a very low point in my life and I wanted to take my own life. He took me out of it and made me see differently, that I should not worry and that something good would come,” he said.
“He was a very caring person; very caring and understanding.”
William Mousley QC, defending, asked Pisano about his past and how he came to the UK.
Pisano told the court that Ricardo Pisano was not his real name and that he left a daughter, who he would send money to, and an ex-wife in South Africa, neither of whom he has seen since leaving in 2000.
After fleeing prison in New Zealand, where he was jailed for extortion, he lived in Australia for 18 months and then caught a boat to South Africa where he flew to Cape Town and arranged for papers which would get him into the UK illegally, arriving in 2004, the court heard.
He could not stay in South Africa because a “fatwa” was issued against him by controversial vigilante group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) and that he would be “dead within a week”, Pisano said.
Mr Polding knew about some of his past, including that he feared for his life if he was to return to South Africa, Pisano told the court.
Mr Polding offered to marry him, even throwing an engagement party at his Croydon flat, he said.
But even though he felt comfortable with him, describing him as “a trustworthy person who would not sell me out”, he had not wanted to marry him, the defendant told the jury.
Mr Polding decided to sell his share of his home in Croydon and move to Brighton, taking Pisano and the defendant’s friend Emmett Friel, the court heard.
Mr Polding, who had health problems and would often fall over, began drinking even more heavily than normal once he had received money for his share of the Croydon house and they were living in Brighton, Pisano told the jury.
Mr Polding visited his family in Scotland during Christmas 2011 but returned home to Brighton early because they did not agree with the amount of alcohol he was drinking, Pisano said.
He tried to stop Mr Polding from spending so much and made him open a separate savings account where he deposited £20,000 which was eventually used to set up a hairdressing salon in north London, the court heard.
“St Mikes paid for everything. Emmett said he paid for bills when he was living there but that was not true,” Pisano said.