A MAN accused of the murder of Rico Dardis told a court today his death was an accident.
Paul Gerlach, 51, said he and co-accused Louis Borzoni, 50, together pushed Mr Dardis from the back of Gerlach’s speedboat ‘No Chance’ out in the bay on May 27 last year, after he attacked them.
He told Winchester Crown Court he then accidently ran the 30-year-old over while turning the boat to pick him up.
His dismembered body was found washed up beside the boat at Friar’s Cliff, Christchurch.
Questioned by defence counsel Andrew Langdon QC, Gerlach said he had first met Mr Dardis that day and had invited him and old friend Borzoni out on his boat, which he had bought despite being unemployed using an inheritance from a relative.
An alcoholic, he said they had all been drinking vodka and beer.
He claimed Mr Dardis had acted in an unsafe manner on the boat – putting it suddenly into full throttle when briefly allowed to drive, and later climbing onto the bow through the windscreen – before attacking Borzoni.
“Rico punched Lou in the head,” he said. “I remember him turning on me, he hit me, then I was on the deck on my back and he was on top of me repeatedly punching me.”
Gerlach said he and Borzoni were able to get up and push Mr Dardis off the back of the boat.
“It was a mad sort of shoving, grappling and pushing,” he said.
“It was a desperate situation.
“I didn't know how far he was going to go.”
He said he had turned the boat to attempt to pick Mr Dardis up, but suddenly heard a bump and the engine stopped, and he ‘presumed’ he had hit Mr Dardis.
Under cross examination by prosecutor Michael Bowes QC, Gerlach said he hadn’t called for help as he was ‘very angry’ and disorientated at the time and it was a ‘surreal’ situation.
Mr Bowes suggested Gerlach had been so angry he had deliberately chosen to drive over Mr Dardis, which he denied. He said Gerlach was lying about having a poor memory of the incident and hours which followed to cover the gaps in his account, which was also denied.
Asked why he had told his former wife Anita that he murdered Mr Dardis, Gerlach replied that he didn’t want people to think he had been ‘pushed around’ by him.
Gerlach, of no fixed abode, and Borzoni, of Hamilton Road, Boscombe, deny murder.
The trial continues.