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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 15:55 GMT
Passion prompts murder confession
The Passion of the Christ
The film depicts the final 12 hours of Christ's life
A Texas man has been prompted by Mel Gibson's Passion film to confess he killed his girlfriend, a police spokesman has said.

Dan Leach, 21, said he killed pregnant girlfriend Ashley Nicole Wilson, found dead on 18 January, Fort Bend County Sheriff's Department said.

"He mentioned that speaking with a friend and seeing the movie made him feel remorse," police added.

The controversial film is now out in the UK and is a US box office hit.

Leach said he made it look as if the 19-year-old had committed suicide.

Her body was found in her apartment with a suicide note describing her depression. She appeared to have hanged herself.

The Passion cinema poster

Leach said he wanted to seek redemption after seeing The Passion of the Christ.

He went to police on 9 March and was released while they investigated his claim. Leach was arrested on Tuesday and is being held on $100,000 (55,500) bail.

The film, which has prompted heated debate about whether it is anti-Semitic, has generated huge publicity.

It portrays the final hour of Christ's life, and gives a brutal depiction of his death on the cross.

Released in the UK on Friday, it is expected to repeat the box office success it has experienced in the US.

The Passion of the Christ
It stars Jim Caviezel (centre) and was directed by Mel Gibson (right)
It has now taken more than $264m at US cinemas - making it more successful than films like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Monsters Inc and Toy Story 2.

Nine UK churches have block-booked 3,300 seats at cinemas in Barnstaple, Devon, and Maidstone, Kent, to enable their congregation and non-church-goers to see the film.

Grosvenor Evangelical Church pastor Graham Poland said he thought the film tried to wake people up "to the reality of what happened to Jesus Christ".

But it has also led to protests from some members of the Jewish community, who condemned it for an "overly negative portrayal" of Jews.

Religious row

It was "bad history", "bad theology" and "bad cinema", Jewish Chronicle editor Ned Temko wrote for BBC News Online.

"Gibson places virtually all responsibility for Christ's death on Jews," he wrote.

But Josephine Siedlecka, editor of Independent Catholic News, wrote that it was "for the most part faithful to the Gospels, very moving and thought-provoking".

Gibson has denied anti-Semitism, saying he has tried to stick to the story as told in the Bible and his film highlights Christ's "huge" sacrifice.

The BBC's David Sillito
"The huge US box office success has been down to a large part to support from Christian churches"


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