Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Irish couple cut out of will before double murder, court told

An Irishman was naked and his wife was in her night dress when they were shot dead, a court was told, raising doubts about the suspect's claims he killed the couple in self defence.

Murder accused Erwin Poppinger (75) fatally shot Kevin McGuirk and his wife Kim during an argument sparked by money and a £870 bill for the home they shared in South Africa, Poppinger's lawyer told Alberton Court, near Johannesburg.

The court heard that Poppinger had told the couple during the row that he had cut them out of his will and that they would inherit nothing from his estate.

Police believe Poppinger calmly pulled the trigger on Mr McGuirk (54) and then blasted his daughter Kim (34) following the argument on August 15.

Poppinger, who has already admitted to the double-killing, said he acted in self-defence after being threatened by Mr McGuirk.

But police do not believe Mr McGuirk, a Dublin-born dive school boss, threatened his father-in-law before he was killed and had simply taken off his clothes and gone to bed.

Police detective Sathieseelan Pilay, who discovered the bodies, rejected claims that Poppinger had pulled the trigger in self-defence. He said: "The male had no clothes on his body. She was in her sleeping attire."

The defence claimed that because Mr McGuirk's body had been found on the floor, this indicated he had lunged aggressively at the elderly man -- and that he had not been moved from the bed by his attacker.

Det Pilay yesterday confirmed no weapons were found in the couple's room by forensic officers later that day.

Alleging that Poppinger had planned the crime, he added: "If a person goes to an argument with a firearm, I strongly believe it's premeditation."

The detective indicated that the retired engineer had used a chemical in an attempt to cover his tracks and clean blood from the scene in Alberton, south east of Johannesburg. He told the court: "I found a bottle of carpet cleaner which had blood on the neck of it.

"It was in the cupboard in the suspect's bedroom. I also found a pair of gloves under the dressing table in his room.

"They were yellow and white rubber. They had blood on them."

At the bail hearing yesterday, defence lawyer Neels Kotze said the row involved Poppinger cutting the couple out of his will.

"On that day he told them that he had changed his will and they would not be inheriting anything from him.

"They had not paid the electricity and phone bill. The electricity bill was 8,000 to 10,000 rand. He had instigated legal action against them, the deceased persons. The male started threatening him and even said that he would kill him."

Poppinger, a German citizen, claimed that his poor command of English accounted for inconsistencies in his story when police questioned him.

But Det Pilay told the court: "He (the accused) seemed to have understood English perfectly well when I spoke to him."

Mr Kotze said the incident left his client deeply shaken in the hours afterwards.

He said: "The applicant was in total shock, bearing in mind it was his own daughter and son-in-law."

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday next week, when each side is expected to sum up their respective case for and against bail. Poppinger denies murder but admitted shooting the couple dead in self-defence at an earlier hearing.

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