Britsh handyman on trial for Dordogne murder of golf course owner
A BRITISH handyman has gone on trial for murdering a British millionaire golf course owner during a violent row in a case that has shocked the Dordogne.
Neil Andrew Ludlam, 33, was accused of bludgeoning and stabbing to death Peter Fuller, 67, his friend and employer, in a drunken fight at his five-bedroom home on June 26, 2009 – just three weeks after taking up employment with the retired Total oil engineer.
An autopsy read out in the criminal court in Périgueux said Fuller had died after receiving a stab wound to the chest that punctured his right lung.
On Tuesday, the accused admitted to having a violent row with Fuller after both had been drinking heavily, but that his memory was hazy due to the alcohol and that he had no recollection of stabbing or killing him.
However, he told the court he did remember feeling threatened. "We argued in the kitchen. Fuller fell down and hurt his head. He said he had a gun and wouldn't hesitate to use it," he said.
Fuller, from Chatham in Kent, had lived for more than six years in rural Plaisance near Bergerac.
There, he created Les Mirandes Golf and Country Club, whose 18-hole course he designed himself, and which served fish and chips and other British-style food. Dordogne is home to around 20,000 Britons.
Mr Ludlam had moved out from England weeks before the murder, living in a caravan in the grounds of the property where Mr Fuller lived alone. He was employed to conduct maintenance jobs, gardening and restoration work.
On Tuesday, Fuller's ex-wife, Wilhemina Jans, recounted her shock at finding her dead ex-husband lying face down in a pool of blood on June 27, 2009 – the day after his murder.
Walking around the house, she said it was clear there had been a terrible struggle as there were blood stains on the walls and floors of several rooms and in the kitchen sink and the bar, and that there was broken furniture and smashed glass.
Two of Fuller's cars were missing – one was later found crashed nearby.
Police said traces of blood were found on two knives, in Mr Ludlam's caravan and on his clothes.
He immediately became the prime suspect.
Eye witnesses who encountered him the day after the murder said he had acted suspiciously, appearing agitated and saying he desperately needed to reach an airport.
British police apprehended Mr Ludlum at Luton airport as he stepped off a flight from Bordeaux and a month later, he was extradited back to France.
Mr Ludlam's lawyer had previously argued that his client had run away in a panic as he did not speak French and thought he could better explain himself in the UK.
On Tuesday, the accused said the fight started when he took offence at Fuller saying he would like to sleep with his mother. Mr Ludlam said he then enraged his employer by calling him a bad father as his son was a heroine addict and in prison at the time.
Miss Jans, however, urged the court not to pay much heed to Mr Ludlam's testimony as he was a "liar, a cheat and a drunkard", while her ex-husband was "easy going, even tempered and didn't like confrontations".
Outside court, Mr Ludlam's lawyer Philippe de Caunes, said: "While he doesn't remember everything, he regrets his act and is still at a loss as to how he could have done such a thing given that he considered the victim his friend."
A court psychological report found that Mr Ludlam, whose parents divorced when he was aged one, had a "poorly structured personality including quite marked borderline traits", but found no mental illness suggesting diminished responsibility.
He faces a maximum 30-year prison term if found guilty.
The trial continues.