Wednesday 26 October 2016

Man jailed for life for murdering girlfriend has conviction appeal dismissed on all grounds

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 12/04/2016 | 17:35


A man jailed for life for the murder of his girlfriend, whom he had blamed for having him evicted from his flat, has had an appeal against conviction dismissed.

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Waldemar Solowiow (49), had admitted killing Mary Ryan at his home on Sherrard Street Upper, Dublin 1, between May 18 and 19 2012 but denied it was murder.

Ms Ryan, a 37-year-old Drogheda woman, was found unconscious in Solowiow's Dublin bedsit. She was rushed to hospital but died almost immediately due to neck compression and blunt force trauma to the head.

Solowiow claimed that they had had a physical fight the night before she died, that he was provoked and did not mean to kill her.

He was found guilty of her murder by a majority jury verdict in the Central Criminal Court and was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick J McCarthy on October 31 2013.

Moving an appeal against conviction last year on grounds that the trial judge misdirected the jury on the legal defence of provocation, his lawyers had asked the Court of Appeal for either a retrial or a lesser verdict than muder.

However, dismissing his appeal against conviction today, Mr Justice John Edwards said the Court of Appeal rejected all grounds and would “uphold the conviction”.

The thrust of Solowiow's submissions was that the trial judge failed to clearly outline the subjective test of provocation to the jury and did not sufficiently contextualise the test by reference to the evidence.

Mr Justice Edwards said the case was “all about provocation” and “both sides will have been intensely interested in what the judge had to say on this topic”.

“Provocation has been described as a graveyard for judges,” Mr Justice Edwards said.

“Both sides will have been aware that there have been a number of cases where convictions have been quashed” because of trial judges' directions to juries on provocation.

Yet, it was “striking”, he said, that “nobody who participated in the trial and who heard” the judge's directions “found it necessary” to object to his directions at the time.

Mr Justice Edwards said the trial judge left the jury in no doubt that the test was subjective and that their interest was in Solowiow's state of mind rather than the “reasonable man on the LUAS”.

He said the court was “completely satisfied” that the judge's instructions were adequately contextualised and satisfied that the jury would have appreciated the relationship between provocation and Solowiow's state of mind.

Turning to other grounds of appeal as had been submitted by Paul Burns SC, for Solowiow, Mr Justice Edwards said the accused had initially “lied” to gardaí when he told them that Ms Ryan was attacked by three men on the street.

Prosecuting counsel referred to this as Solowiow's 'cock and bull story' in his closing speech.

Mr Justice Edwards said the lies were not as significant as they might have been in other cases because by the time of the trial, Solowiow had admitted killing Ms Ryan and the trial judge's treatment of this issue was “more than adequate”.

Again, there were no requisitions on this issue, the judge said.

Mr Burns submitted that the trial judge did not advise the jury on how to treat expert evidence by then Deputy State Pathologist Khalid Jabber.

“In fact, the judge did tell the jury that they were not obliged to accept expert evidence,” Mr Justice Edwards said. “Once more, the court attaches significance to the fact that there was no requisition on this issue either.”

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the court rejected all grounds of appeal and “will uphold the conviction”.

Solowiow was lead away to continue serving the remainder of his life sentence.

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