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Was Tsarnaev involved in a triple murder?

Police are now investigating whether deceased Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, may have been connected to a brutal triple murder in 2011.

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The man accused of carrying out last week's deadly Boston Marathon bombings has told a court he cannot afford legal representation.

The one-word answer to a question about his financial means was the only time during the brief hearing of the United States District Court in Massachusetts, convened at his hospital bedside, that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spoke.

He has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been interviewed at a bedside Photo: AFP

The release of the transcript of the first court hearing for Tsarnaev, before Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler, reveals the United States opposed bail – even in Tsarnaev’s bedridden state – for fear he would intimidate witnesses if released.

Magistrate Judge Bowler noted that Tsarnaev was ‘‘alert, mentally competent and lucid’’ and ‘‘aware of the nature of the proceedings’’.

Tsarnaev, 19, was not required to enter a defence to the charges at the hearing and had the right to remain silent.

He twice nodded when Magistrate Judge Bowler asked if he understood what she had asked about his rights, and said ‘‘no’’ when asked if he could afford a lawyer.

The transcript's release comes as reports emerge that Tsarnaev confirmed to investigators that he acted alone.

Quoting an unnamed US government source, CNN reported that Tsarnaev said no international terrorist groups were behind the bombings.

According to the source, Dzhokar told investigators his older brother Tamerlan – shot dead during a gun battle with police on Friday before Dzhokar was arrested – was the ‘‘driving force’’ in the bombing.

CNN’s source said the Tsarnaev brothers appeared to meet the criteria to be classified as ‘‘self-radicalised jihadists’’. Further, Tamerlan wanted to defend Islam from attack.

But the source warned, according to CNN, that the interview was preliminary, and the account given by Dzhokar needed substantiation.

William Weinreb, from the United States attorney’s office, told the bedside hearing that bail was opposed because the offences carried a maximum penalty of death or life in jail, the offences were crimes of violence and that Tsarnaev would be a risk of flight.

The court provisionally appointed the office of the federal public defender to represent Tsarnaev. Acting for him was William Fick, who told the court he had ‘‘very briefly’’ had the opportunity to speak to his client.

Tsarnaev’s next court appearance is expected to be May 30.

- Adrian Lowe

First Hearing