Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Man's denial over river killing

John Pope
John Pope claims Karen Skipper gave him a tissue to wipe blood from his hand

A jury has heard a man accused of murdering a dog walker was "not clever enough" to make up a story that one of her animals had earlier bitten him.

John Pope 59, of Fairwater, Cardiff, denies attacking Karen Skipper, who was left to drown in the city's River Ely.

Cardiff Crown Court has heard a spot of his blood was on her jeans because he had tried to take a thorn from one of Mrs Skipper's dogs' paws.

Mark Evans QC, defending, said: "He is a man of limited intellectual ability."

Giving evidence at the murder trial, Mr Pope denied any involvement with Mrs Skipper's killing in March 1996.

Mrs Skipper's semi-naked body was found in the water. Her hands had been bound by her dogs' leads.

Karen Skipper
Karen Skipper was attacked as she walked her dogs along Cardiff's River Ely

Her ex-husband Phillip was charged but acquitted of her murder. He died in November 2004, aged 48.

The trial heard Mr Pope was questioned as part of the initial investigation but denied knowing the Mrs Skipper.

The jury heard the labourer claim he was at home on the night of Mrs Skipper's murder.

When asked if he had any involvement in her death, he answered: "No, I did not."

The court heard the explanation that the his blood was on Mrs Skipper's because he was bitten by one of her dogs at a corner shop weeks earlier.

He said: "I kneeled down to stroke the dog and I removed a thorn out of its paw.

"The dog bit me hard enough to rip the skin off the top of the nail.

Philip and Karen Skipper
Husband Philip Skipper was cleared by a jury of murdering his wife Karen

"Karen looked at my hand, there was blood running down both side of my hand - she put her hand in my pocket and got a tissue out for me to wipe it."

Mr Pope's defence is that a blood smear from the tissue must have left its mark on Mrs Skipper's jeans.

Mark Evans QC said his client was "not clever enough" to have made up the story.

He said: "He is a man of limited intellectual ability, he can hardly read or write and he finds it difficult to tell the time.

"He would have had to know Mrs Skipper visited that shop and he would have had to know the temperament of the dogs.

Criminal convictions

"When he was told the police had DNA evidence on him, that could have been from a number of sources.

"He would have had to bet on the fact the prosecution were talking about a blood smear, and how would he have got that information?"

Mr Evans told the court that Mr Pope had criminal convictions dating back to 1964 when he was 15 years old.

The trial continues.

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