Accused killer denies shooting friend to clear his debt

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An accused murderer has denied shooting his friend in the back of the head so he could get out of a mounting debt.

Instead, Bartolomeo Rapisarda claims he found Dennis Pollock’s slumped body in a shed in Melbourne’s south-east after the 64-year-old took his own life.

That dispute will be the central focus on Rapisarda’s murder trial, which began in the Victorian Supreme Court today.

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CCTV footage from the Baxter property showed the pair going between the shed, backyard and house in the hours before Pollock’s death on September 16, 2017.

At 10.32am, Pollock entered the shed with a bottle of alcohol and Rapisarda followed at 10.39am.

Sixteen minutes passed before Rapisarda left the shed and made a call to triple zero, telling the operator he believed Pollock shot himself.

Paramedics arrived a short time later, but they cleared the space to perform CPR, thinking Pollock had a heart attack.

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The alleged murder weapon, a .22 calibre rifle brought into the shed by Pollock, was moved from where it was allegedly left on the workbench.

Rapisarda spoke to a number of police officers at the scene, maintaining he had left the property to buy cigarettes and returned to find Pollock’s body.

Once he was arrested and formally interviewed over the alleged murder, Rapisarda said he had been in a different part of the shed when the shot was fired.

An autopsy confirmed Pollock had died from a gunshot wound behind his left ear.

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Prosecutor Jeremy McWilliams told the jury Rapisarda killed Pollock because he was in debt and set to benefit as the sole beneficiary of the 64-year-old’s estate.

Pollock had changed his will a year before his death, leaving his $350,000 Baxter home and $200,000 in superannuation to Rapisarda, McWilliams said.

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About a month before Pollock’s death, Rapisarda tried to obtain a $35,000 loan but was unable to due to his lack of employment.

His wife and Pollock were instead listed as the applicants and Rapisarda obtained the funds in May 2017.

But the loan almost immediately went into arrears as Rapisarda fell behind in his fortnightly repayments, McWilliams said.

The day before the alleged murder, Pollock was contacted about the failing loan and warned that a final demand notice would be sent.

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McWilliams told the jury Rapisarda killed Pollock the next day so he could obtain the funds from his estate and clear his debt.

Pollock’s friends also reported seeing no signs he was suicidal, rather he had seemed optimistic for the future after beating prostate cancer, McWilliams said.

Rapisarda’s defence barrister David Jones KC told the jury Pollock was the one who pulled the trigger.

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“Was (Rapisarda) financially ruined to the point it drove him to murder? No,” Jones said.

He also pointed to a note found at the scene in Pollock’s handwriting, which said Rapisarda had helped Pollock financially.

“I know I owe you $40,000 – if anything happens to me, it’s my own responsibility,” the note read.

The trial before Justice Jane Dixon continues.

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