Murder Suspect Spotted In Southampton

Police are looking to question a man known as the Artful Dodger of South Africa in connection with the death of a man who lay dead in his flat for at least two months.

Ricardo Pisano, who is also known as Brandon Victor Pillay and uses the nicknames ''Ree'' or Ricky'' is wanted by Sussex Police in connection with the murder of Michael Polding who was discovered in his flat with multiple injuries by police on July 16.

Concerned family members contacted police when Mr Polding failed to get in touch.

The openly gay 62-year-old had only moved to St George's Road in the Kemp Town area of Brighton, East Sussex, from London nine months ago and detectives have said they are trying to build a picture of his lifestyle.

It is believed he died in the middle of May and officers are trying to establish exactly when he died.

Their investigation has led them to convicted criminal Pisano who is believed to have walked out of an open prison in New Zealand ten years ago after being jailed for fraud offences.

His escape from prison led to him being called the South African Artful Dodger by South African paper The Star and ''New Zealand's greatest prison escaper'' by the Waikato Times.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick May, who is leading the investigation known as Operation Journal, said the last known sighting of Pisano was at The Marlands shopping centre in Southampton on July 28, but he is also known to have links in Croydon, Brighton, and Crouch End, north London.

He said: ''We are still unclear as to when exactly Mr Polding died and our inquiries have shown that Mr Polding was friends with Mr Pisano.

''We think he may have information about Mr Polding's last movements; however, we have been unable to find him so far.''

Pisano, who is described by police as a manipulative man, predominantly lived in the Croydon area after arriving in the UK, where he is believed to have met Mr Polding three or four years ago.

The men are believed to have lived together at some point and Pisano moved to Brighton with Mr Polding, describing himself to people as the pensioner's carer even though he was not in poor health, sources said.

It is believed the men may have had some sort of physical relationship but detectives are trying to build up a picture of Pisano's background, including his employment history.

Mr May said the last known sighting of Pisano in Brighton was in mid-May and that he may now have grown a beard or be disguising himself in other ways.

He said: ''He is originally from South Africa and speaks with a South African accent, although he may change his accent.

''He is about 35 years old and has also lived in New Zealand. He could be introducing himself under a number of different names and I would urge people to look at his photograph and contact police if they have seen him recently.''

Mr May also appealed for Pisano to get in contact with Sussex Police directly.

He said Pisano had portrayed himself in the past as a New Zealander, an Aboriginal Australian and Italian.

He added that although nothing was found to be missing from Mr Polding's flat following his death, police were not ruling out a financial motive.

He said Pisano does not have a criminal record in this country although he has come to the attention of police in the past.

Mr Polding, who was one of nine siblings, was known to be in regular contact with his family in Scotland up until his death, Mr May said.

Police also believe that Mr Polding's death was not linked to any hate crime as a result of his sexuality and that any assault he suffered was not as a result of a random attack.

In a statement released after his death, Mr Polding's family said he had grown up in Scotland but found his younger years there difficult because of his sexuality.

They said he had worked in the urology department at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, for 15 years but had moved to Brighton as he wanted to start a new life within the gay community.

It said: ''In the 1970s he decided to move to London where he felt it would be easier to live as an openly gay man.

''He spent many happy years in Croydon, living with his partner Henry until he sadly died in 2001.

''Michael was a kind and caring man. Despite the distance between us he kept in close contact and we will miss him greatly.''

Pisano is olive-skinned, about 5ft 6in and slim. Anyone with information should call Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Journal, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

A 28-year-old man from north London who was arrested on Sunday July 22 on suspicion of murder remains in police bail until August 23 pending further inquiries.