Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Man denies murdering transsexual

A roofer has denied killing a transsexual prostitute who was stabbed in February 1997.

The Old Bailey heard James Hopkins, from Leeds, was arrested for the murder of Robyn Browne after he was linked to a palm print at the scene.

But Mr Hopkins told the court he had been present when a Jamaican man he knew only as "Appee" killed Ms Browne.

But he denied stabbing Ms Browne and said: "I have never been a violent man in my life."

The 23-year-old, who was born James Errol Browne, had been having treatment for a sex change but had not had the final operation. She was found with nine stab wounds to the chest and neck in a flat in Soho, central London.

Address book

Mr Hopkins has claimed he had gone to the flat with Appee to get hold of an address book which contained details of a number of the transsexual's famous clients.

Cross examining him, Nicholas Hilliard QC, prosecuting, asked him about a letter he had sent while in custody to his then girlfriend, Donna Abbott, who had made a statement to police claiming he had confessed to her about the killing.

I have never been a violent man in my life
James Hopkins

In the letter he had implored her to change her story and say he had not told her anything about the 1997 incident and wrote: "They have no proof I told you anything".

Mr Hopkins denied he had been putting pressure on her but added: "This letter is the only thing I'm going to have trouble explaining. But I was in a terrible state at the time I wrote it."

Mr Hilliard claimed he had "made up" his whole account and said: "The truth is you went to that flat on your own didn't you?"

"No," replied Mr Hopkins.

Mr Hilliard suggested that Mr Hopkins went into the bedroom where he stabbed Ms Browne.

Mr Hopkins replied: "Where did that knife come from? I never carried a knife in my life."

Palm prints

"You are guilty of murder, aren't you?" said Mr Hilliard.

"Guilty of making a lot of mistakes in my life maybe," replied Mr Hopkins, "guilty of not ringing the emergency services and guilty of writing that letter but I have never been a violent man in my life."

A palm print was found in the victim's blood on the bedroom door and palm prints were found on the Sun newspaper and another publication in a plastic bag on the floor, the court has heard.

The palm prints were not identified automatically from the national database until 2007, when Mr Hopkins, now 42, was arrested at his home in Farnley, Leeds.

The trial continues.

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