Special report: 'Artful Dodger' jailed for 18 years after leaving his lover to rot in Brighton flat (From The Argus)
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Special report: 'Artful Dodger' jailed for 18 years after leaving his lover to rot in Brighton flat
He bled his older lover dry, fatally beat him up and fled the county – before claiming Michael Polding had killed himself.
But yesterday “evil monster” Ricardo Pisano sat with his head in his hands as he was given an 18-and-a-half year jail sentence. The verdict – welcomed by Mr Polding’s distraught family – marked the end of a 17-month police investigation.
Crime reporter Anna Roberts reports.
He was dubbed “the Artful Dodger” when he fled from New Zealand after escaping from jail where he was serving a sentence for fraud.
In Brighton, Ricardo Pisano – also known as Ricky, Ree and Brandon – told nearby shop workers he was Michael Polding’s carer.
But the 62-year-old former hospital worker did not need medical assistance.
In fact, Pisano was abusing Mr Polding while draining him of thousands of pounds.
The violence Pisano inflicted on his older lover had horrific consequences.
In May 2012, Mr Polding was attacked so badly he died – a postmortem examination revealed all his ribs were broken.
Yesterday Judge Michael Lawson QC said he believed, although he could not prove, Pisano had started attacking his lover as early as February of that year.
Sentencing the criminal, Judge Lawson said by the time Mr Polding was £20,000 overdrawn his younger lover saw no use for him.
He said: “As he became less of an asset to you, you treated him with disdain, with violence.
“It was the only way he would do what he was told.
“When he was lying there weak you told him he was faking it.
“The relationship was violent and abusive and set in a domestic relationship because you were unable or unwilling to earn your own living.
“You were obsessed with your own self-interest.
“You left him to rot.”
Judge Lawson said Mr Polding was “generous”.
Speaking in court yesterday, he told Pisano: “[Michael] was gentle and intelligent. You identified him as vulnerable.”
He warned Pisano it was likely he would be deported on completing his sentence, of which he will serve half inside and half on licence.
This is despite Pisano telling a jury if he returned to his native South Africa he faced violence and possible death as revenge for running a successful business as a younger man.
Pisano was convicted by a 10-2 majority of manslaughter and wounding but cleared of murder.
He had previously admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body – Mr Polding was left to rot between May 2012 when he died and July of that year when he was found.
Mr Pisano told the court earlier in the trial he found Polding hanging from the banisters in his home and had taken his naked body down, covering it with a tartan towel because he was Scottish, putting on some music because he didn’t want him to be lonely and covering him in a sheet because “it was the decent thing to do” before leaving the flat.
Philip Katz QC, prosecuting, claimed the move was designed to fool police into thinking Mr Polding had died in his sleep On being sentenced Pisano, who has never revealed his real name, yelled out: “I hope you can sleep well at night, I am innocent.”
He added he would only reveal his real identity “on the other side,”
adding: “I am innocent. You are sending an innocent man to jail.
“On the other side you will know my true name.”
Mr Polding, described by his family as “loving Brighton’s gay scene”, was known for his friendly nature and kind heart.
His sister, Mary McKeown, 66, of Paisley, Scotland, said she missed her brother.
She added: “Pisano is an evil monster.
“I do not like to say his name.
“He is contemptible... what he did was contemptible.”
Describing her brother, she said: “He moved to Brighton because he loved the gay scene.
“He lived his life as a gay man and until his tragic end was happy.
“He was very, very loved.
“The verdict means that we have justice for Michael although that is little comfort against the thought of how we lost him.
“Michael was a happy, loving and gentle person, always ready to help others when needed. He was fun and always enjoyed the company of family and friends.
“When you were with him you knew you would have a great time and would spend the day laughing and enjoying yourself.
“We miss Michael every hour of every day. He will always be in our thoughts.”
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Jon Fanner, of Sussex Police, said: “Michael Polding was a vulnerable man who trusted the defendant to care for and look after him.
“That trust was breached and the defendant was responsible for Michael’s death.
“After he had died, the defendant abandoned the body of the man he claimed to care for and left Sussex in order to avoid detection and to save himself.
“The fact that Michael’s body lay undisturbed for several weeks before he was found has meant further anguish for the Polding family, on top of their loved one's death.
“The defendant has refused to reveal his true identity throughout the investigation and trial.
“I would like to pay tribute to Michael’s family for their strength and the assistance they have given to me and my officers during the investigation.
“Nothing is going to bring Michael back or fill the hole in their lives left by his absence but at least today’s verdict means they have justice for Michael.”
‘We must learn from his death’
“Don't let Michael’s death be in vain.”
That was the message from Mr Polding’s sister, Mary McKeown, speaking after the sentencing yesterday.
She urged people to leave abusive relationships.
She said: “I would not like any other family to go through what we have.
“Irrespective if you are a man or woman, gay or straight.
Michael’s death will not have been in vain.
“Speak to family, a friend, a doctor, a clergyman.”
Her call was supported by Mr Polding’s nephew and godson David Clyde who said he was “the brightness in the room”.
He added: “Nobody should stand for abuse. If someone truly loves you, they won’t abuse you.
“People can be embarrassed. You don’t want to think it can happen to a member of your family – but it can.
“It can be a taboo subject but it should not be.
“You should never hide in the shadows. Abusers are bullies. Pisano is a coward.”
Speaking fondly about Mr Polding, the 42-year-old said: “I was bought up all my life knowing he was gay – it did not make him a bad person.
“He loved to cook, he loved his family – he came from a very large family – and his presence lifted the atmosphere up.
“He was a genuinely nice person.
“He was very good with children. He was the life and soul of the party. He was a lovely, lovely person. From the day I was born right through, he was there.”
He explained how his uncle lived for about 30 years with his long-term partner, Henry, until his death Mr Polding’s ashes have now been returned to his native Scotland where they are with his parents and beloved Henry, who Mr Clyde said had been like a member of the family.
Fatwa against Pisano
Ricardo Pisano said he fled the scene of Michael Polding’s death because he feared deportation to South Africa.
He claimed a "fatwa" had been issued against him by the controversial vigilante group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) who deemed him "troublesome or a threat".
He told officers that after discovering Mr Polding’s body, he feared for his life and remarked: “Oh no, not again.”
He added: “If I’m deported to South Africa, I will be dead in a week. I fear that any of my family members will be shot.”
Pisano claimed that Pagad was responsible for numerous killings of people deemed a “nuisance to society” and that he had become a target after setting up a successful business.
Pisano said that following the issuing of the fatwa against him, he left South Africa and ended up in numerous countries, including New Zealand and the United States. Asked what he meant by a fatwa, he explained: “They want you dead in the name of their god.”
The Artful Dodger
A month after Michael Polding’s body was found in his flat in St George’s Road, Brighton – and a murder inquiry was launched – Sussex Police named e scaped convict Ricardo Pisano as their prime suspect.
Pisano, dubbed “the Artful Dodger” in the South African press, was notorious in New Zealand for walking out of jail in the Waikato area of the country.
The New Zealand press told The Argus he was the only person between 2001 and 2011 not to have been re-caught after absconding from prison in the region.
The dubious honour earned him the title “New Zealand’s most elusive jail-breaker”.
Pisano, also known as Brandon Victor Pillay, Ree and Ricky, falsely claimed to people he was Mr Polding’s carer when actually the former NHS worker did not have any medical support.
In August 2012 a police source said Pisano was “cunning and clever”.
He added: “He is very careful about what information he gives”.
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