A New Zealand fugitive who fled a Waikato prison 12 years ago has been convicted of manslaughter in Britain.

Ricardo Pisano, 36, walked out of Tongariro/Rangipo Prison in August 2001 after serving eight months of a 15-month sentence for extortion. He was on a jail work party when he escaped, earning him the nickname "The Artful Dodger" in his native South Africa.

But yesterday at Lewes Crown Court he was jailed for 18 years after being found guilty of the manslaughter of his older gay lover.

Pisano had denied murdering Michael Polding, 62, whose body was found by detectives in his Brighton flat in July last year, two months after he died from a "blunt force trauma consistent with an assault".


Pisano fled and was caught a year later in Southampton, living under a different name.

During the course of the five-week trial Lewes Crown Court was told Pisano met Mr Polding after advertising himself as a rent boy in a gay magazine. They first lived in south London and then moved to Brighton.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Philip Katz told the jury that Pisano abused and assaulted Mr Polding, whose body was found wrapped in bedding by police. Mr Katz said Pisano and friends had "bled Mr Polding dry financially" before he died.

Yesterday the jury cleared Pisano of murder but convicted him of manslaughter and wounding. Sussex police said they were not aware of any request from the New Zealand authorities to have Pisano extradited after the end of his sentence.