Friday 28 November 2014

Rapist and kidnapper who absconded during trial found in England

Conor Gallagher

Published 12/12/2013 | 14:25

A convicted rapist and kidnapper who fled during his trial six years ago is to be sentenced next month after being found in England.

Virginijus Bagdonas (44), a Lithuanian with a previous address at Whitehalls, Oldcastle, Co Meath was convicted in his absence in December 2006 after the judge ordered the trial to continue without him.

During the trial, the victim gave evidence that she agreed to accompany Bagdonas to a party in Cavan because he said he wanted to apologise to her for weeks of harassing phone calls.

He claimed that her friends would be there but she found she knew nobody. Bagdonas later offered to drive her home but after a short distance she realised they were going the wrong way. 

He told her he was taking a short cut and as she didn’t know the area she didn’t argue. He drove to a Cavan lake, told her he was going to have sex with her and threatened to kill her.

He raped her in the car and then brought her to his house in Oldcastle where he forced her to undress and get into his bed. She escaped in her stocking feet when he fell asleep and met a garda nearby.

Bagdonas later claimed they had consensual sex and that she stole his rent money before leaving his house.

He pleaded not guilty to raping the woman during the night of March 11, 2006.  He also denied falsely imprisoning her and threatening to kill her on the same date at two separate locations in Counties Cavan and Meath.

When Bagdonas failed to appear for the second day of his trial, he texted his solicitor claiming to have had some sort of incident with his car.

Gardaí checked local hospitals but could find no sign of him. Prosecuting counsel Gerard Clarke SC said that by the end of the day it had become apparent he had absconded.

Mr Justice Barry White ordered that the trial continue without the accused. He said he did this because the 24-year-old woman had concluded her evidence and was coming towards the end of her cross-examination and to stop the trial at that point would have been unfair to her.

After Bagdonas was convicted, the judge commented: “It’s rare that a jury finds itself determining a case in the absence of the accused but he absconded and now can only be sentenced if and when he is apprehended on foot of the bench warrant I have issued for his arrest.”

Until then, the matter must remain in limbo.”

Today at the Central Criminal Court prosecuting counsel said a European Arrest Warrant was obtained after Bagdonas was found living in England.

He agreed to return to Ireland voluntarily and was arrested at Dublin Airport last week. He has been in custody since.

Mr Clarke said the victim is still in the country and that they would like time to get a Victim Impact Report from her.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC also asked for some time to get the transcripts of the 2007 trial so Bagdonas can see what happened in his absence. He said it is possible his client will want to challenge the continuance of the trial without him but agreed the best forum for this is probably the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Mr Grehan also objected to the prosecution stating that Bagdonas absconded, adding that it is possible he was kidnapped or threatened to not appear.

Mr Justice White agreed to adjourn sentencing and remanded Bagdonas in continuing custody until January 20, 2014.

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