Trial begins of two men accused of murdering Rico Dardis in Christchurch

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  • THE trial of two men accused of murdering Rico Dardis will begin at Winchester Crown Court today.
  • Homeless Paul Mark Gerlach, 51, and 50-year-old Louis Borzoni, of Hamilton Road, Boscombe, have denied killing the 30-year-old on Monday, May 27 last year.
  • The body of Mr Dardis, 30, of Hawkwood Mews, Boscombe, was discovered near groynes at Seaway Avenue, Friar’s Cliff, Christchurch.
  • His cause of death was recorded by a coroner as drowning, and he also suffered injuries caused by a boat propeller.
  • Police were first alerted to the incident by members of the public, who said they had seen two men acting suspiciously in a boat.

3:13pm

And with that, the first day comes to an end.

The jury are asked to return at 10.30am tomorrow.

3:11pm

The defendants were then arrested again over their alleged comments. Gerlach makes no comment in interview, and Borzoni said: "I am guilty because I couldn't get him out of the water."

Said he felt "terrible and guilty" about what had happened.

3:09pm

The prosecutor says: "This is extreme and absolute callousness and indifference to Rico Dardis's death."

3:08pm

He is later allegedly recorded as saying: "I'm guilty... What's done is done. 

"I'd rather it didn't happen but it has so I am going to have to live with it"

3:07pm

Now on to Borzoni, who spoke to his brother Marco about the incident.

"Who would have thought little me with the big ears grows up to kill someone?" he allegedly says.

"No one else knows I did it. I killed him right. I killed the bloke then dropped the body in the sea and ran it over with the propeller."

3:05pm

It is alleged that Gerlach says in the recording: "I aimed straight at him, throttle down, cut him in half"

3:04pm

He spends an hour explaining graphically what had happened, the prosecutor says.

He alleges that Gerlach said: "I killed him, I murdered him", going on to describe the moment he ran Mr Dardis over. 

"Honestly mate I just whacked the throttle down and I'm not remorseful," he allegedly says 

3:01pm

Later that evening he allegedly tells Anita: "I ain't got no remorse for what happened though."

She then takes his number and he tells her to record it in her phone as "murderer".

He then says: "I killed him, I killed him," it is alleged 

3:00pm

The prosecutor says Gerlach called his estranged wife, Anita, to an address.

He is allegedly recorded saying: "He fell off the back of the boat and got chewed up by the propeller."

Anita asked: "Did you push him off?"

He replied: "I can't say anything."

2:58pm

Eventually, both men were released on bail and they went to an address where covert intelligence had been deployed.

They were allegedly recorded saying police had "wild theories" but no evidence 

2:56pm

Borzoni initially told police there had been no third person on the boat - instead, the boat had struck someone already in the water, it is alleged.

He said this was a "lie" in his second interview, the prosecutor says 

 

2:55pm

Interviews with police now being summarised.

Gerlach said Mr Dardis became "aggressive" and started attacking them before eventually falling overboard and becoming entangled in propeller.

In his third interview, he said Mr Dardis fell backwards off boat 

2:52pm

Now into blood alcohol levels. Gerlach had 37 milligrammes per litre. However, breath alcohol reading was taken just after midnight - "a more accurate indication" - is equivalent to 216mg per litre.

Borzoni had 84mg in blood, but back calculation puts levels at between 165 and 345mg per litre 

2:49pm

Prosecutor is suggesting that Mr Dardis may have been alive at the time he was struck by the propeller, although drowning was given as the primary cause of death

2:48pm

But doctor completing post mortem also discovered that lungs also contained small particles consistent with sand. Extent of this was unusual and "consistent whey presence of a moving propeller churning up the water and lungs at the same tr that the water entered the deceased's airways", as she put it

2:46pm

Details now about the post mortem. The following features were present to support drowning as a cause of death:

Over inflated water-logged lungs 

White foam in upper airways

Sand and small debris in airways

Enough to conclude that Mr Dardis was alive and breathing when he went into the water, it was concluded 

2:43pm

Shortly afterwards, both men were arrested. Gerlach said: "Look at all this blood on me, anyone would think I had murdered someone - but I haven't", it is alleged 

2:42pm

The defendants then went to the Co-op in Belle Vue Road, Southbourne and spent around 10 minutes choosing drinks.

A shop assistant recalls them behaving in a "jolly manner" allegedly. When they passed her till, she asked what had happened to them, and one replies, "Oh, you should see the other guy - he's dead", the prosecutor says 

2:39pm

They then got a taxi driven by Jaya Dahal. Making conversation, he asked if they'd had a good day.

Gerlach allegedly replied, "Yeah, we murder", before adding, "Ha, just joking."

But the taxi driver thought he could see blood on his face and was shocked by the comment 

2:37pm

Mr Bow says: "Whilst the Bennett's were waiting at the beach for the police, Gerlach and Borzoni were trying to get a taxi to take them back to Mayors Mead car park where Gerlach had left his van earlier that day."

They flagged down a woman called Marsha Ostroumova, who recalled later that the men were "drunk and upset". She lent then her phone to call a taxi 

2:34pm

The prosecutor says: "They [the defendants] had been trying to disentangle body parts from the propeller"

2:33pm

Both defendants then began walking off, it is alleged. Police then arrived at the beach and discovered a torso in the water with both legs severed, the prosecutor says.

Mr Bow has apologised for the details of this case.

He adds: "The officer looked to the rear of the boat and he could see a leg attached the the propeller."

2:31pm

But Alan Bennett went to call the police. When he told them, Gerlach said: "Oh, the filth's on their way here?"

He then began swearing, before saying: "We've had a hell of a day"

2:28pm

Gillian Bennett was with husband Alan when they first saw the boat.

Alan helped them tie it up and Gillian then saw Mr Dardis's body. She said: "Oh my goodness, I think it's a body". Borzoni said: "oh, maybe it's a dummy", the prosecutor says 

2:26pm

A female witness saw the boat at around 6.30pm. The boat appeared to have broken down, she thought.

"When Borzoni removed his clothing she and her son noticed he had blood on him. She could also see that Gerlach appeared to have a black eye."

The witness then saw what appeared to be a "shop mannequin" in the water.

"Neither man appeared to take any notice of it," the prosecutor says 

2:24pm

But the speedboat eventually did go out to sea. Seen at 4.15pm with all three men on board.

At 6.30 that evening the boat is seen by man on Steamer Point beach.

He could see someone swimming towards it, about 400 yards away from the boat.

When he looked again the boat was much closer to the beach, but there was no engine noise 

2:22pm

Another witness who saw the men later that day reported a "commotion" - "the owner of the boat [Gerlach] had fallen into the water and was trying to get from the tender to the boat.

"As a result if the fall he heard shouting and sweating coming from the three men."

Says the two older men - the defendants - we're "having a go" at Mr Dardis, who was younger.

"He heard one shout 'You are bring ungrateful, you've smoked all my cigarettes and drunk all my beer.''

2:18pm

In the day of Mr Dardis's death, the prosecutor says witnesses saw Mr Dardis and Gerlach in an inflatable dinghy in Christchurch.

Both appeared "drunk"

2:15pm

However, both defendants were then Recorded covertly ang were heard "plotting to get their stories straight", the prosecutor says.

He adds that Gerlach allegedly confessed to his estranged wife, while Borzoni allegedly told his brother, who made a note of what was said and told police

2:13pm

He says the defendants then allowed the boat to drift into the shore, where they abandoned it and left the scene.

They were arrested later that evening and in the course of interviews denied deliberately causing his death

2:12pm

He says the defendants then allowed the boat to drift into the shore, where they abandoned it and left the scene.

They were arrested later that evening and in the course of interviews denied deliberately causing his death

2:10pm

The prosecutor says the defendants "quarrelled with Mr Dardis" while all three were in a speedboat  just outside Christchurch Harbour.

They pushed him off the boat, he says. 

He adds: "Mr Dardis was then deliberately run over by the boat and killed.

"His body was dismembered by the propeller which ceased to function because parts of the body were entangled in it."

2:02pm

We've been called back into court - expecting Michael Bow QC to open the case for the prosecution imminently.

2:01pm

We've been called back into court - expecting Michael Bow QC to open the case for the prosecution imminently.

12:53pm

The judge has just confirmed that the case will open at 2.

He is now talking jurors through their responsibilities for the coming weeks.

12:51pm

Jury sent away for a lunch break, and the court will sit again at 2

12:46pm

Seven women and five men have been sworn in. They have just heard that Borzoni and Gerlach have been charged with the murder of Mr Dardis on May 27, 2013. Both have denied the charge 

12:39pm

Number of issues this morning suggests that this trial isn't going to get underway until 2pm today

12:38pm

Bit of a hold up - jurors are allowed to give notes to the judge explaining their reasons if they feel unable to sit for the trial, and there have been quite a few today (most not accepted).

12:23pm

The jury are asked finally if they know the name of Rico Dardis. 14 will now be sworn before the final 12 can sit today 

12:17pm

Judge is explaining to potential jurors that the trial may take as long as July 4. Witnesses for the prosecution now being read aloud, before the same then takes place for the defence.

12:10pm

The trial is currently expected to last until the end of June. Both defendants are sitting in the dock, although are separated by an officer.

12:07pm

A jury will shortly be sworn in before the trial of Paul Mark Gerlach and Louis Borzoni begins this afternoon.

11:48am

Good morning. Our reporter Alex Winter is at Winchester Crown Court as the trial of two men accused of murdering Rico Dardis begins.

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