Monday 24 July 2017

'He was shouting that I ruined his last hope... suddenly a big bang' - Marta Herda breaks her silence in exclusive prison letter

Polish waitress reveals 'I never wanted to take my own life or to kill Csaba'

Csaba Orsos (left) and Marta Herda (right)
Csaba Orsos (left) and Marta Herda (right)
Marta Herda arrives at court for the verdict. Pic Collins Courts.
Marta Herda outside Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins
Marta Herda Picture: Collins Courts
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

A waitress jailed for life for murdering her co-worker has broken her silence and claimed "I'm innocent".

Marta Herda (29) was found guilty last year of murdering Csaba Orsos (31) by driving her Volkswagen Passat through crash barriers and into Arklow harbour shortly before 6am on March 26, 2013.

Her trial heard that she was a good swimmer and she knew her passenger could not swim.

Herda did not give evidence at the hearing but now, in a letter sent exclusively to Independent.ie, she revealed:

  • She was afraid of Csaba after refusing his advances;
  • Chilling details about the last minutes of her colleague's life;
  • It was a wave and not her ability to swim that saved her on the morning of the accident;
  • She suffers from depression in prison and is afraid to make friends;
  • She hopes she will finally be able to give her side of the story at her appeal hearing.

Writing from her cell in the Dochas Prison on Dublin's North Circular Road, Herda admits that she is still in shock, six months after her conviction for the murder of work colleague.

She turns 30 this July but instead of spending her birthday with friends and family she will be surrounded by some of the country's most notorious female criminals. Scissor Sisters Charlotte and Linda Mulhall, psychotic killer Christina Williams and double murderer Catherine O’Connor are among her neighbours at Ireland’s largest female jail.

Csaba Orsos
Csaba Orsos

“In prison, I cannot sleep because I am still thinking all the time,” she writes. “I’m afraid to speak to anyone in prison. I'm not afraid for my life or safety but I am worried about the mental state of my mind.”

Herda said she now wants to speak out to give her side of the story, claiming that this was was not heard during her trial last summer.

During the case evidence was heard that Hungarian Csaba, who worked alongside her at the luxury BrookLodge Hotel at Macreddin Village in Co Wicklow, fell in love with her. However Herda, who is originally from Lublin in east Poland, did not feel the same.

Speaking to Independent.ie in December Csaba’s brother Zoltan Sandro (below) explained: "He asked me many times, 'What do I do? Fight for the love or not?' And the first time I said to him, 'Yes, why not?’”

Emergency teams recover Herda's vehicle from the water at Arklow pier
Emergency teams recover Herda's vehicle from the water at Arklow pier
Zoltan Sandro 3.jpg
Brother of Csaba Orsos, Zoltan Sandro, speaks to the media at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after the verdict. Pic Collins Courts.

Despite spurning his advances Herda continued to remain friendly with her colleague. Zoltan explained that his brother interpreted this as an indication of interest.

“It was her who would touch him and rub his shoulder and say, 'Hi Csaba, how are you?' I think she wanted to show him that maybe they have a small chance, and maybe my brother believed that as well," he said.

Writing this week, Herda insists that she wants to set the record straight and claiming she was never interested in him. “I wanted to maintain good relations in order to maintain a good atmosphere at work,” she said.

She continued to maintain contact with Csaba and she writes that on the day before his death she spoke to him several times on the phone.

Marta Herda’s Letters from Prison.
Marta Herda’s Letters from Prison.

She told Independent.ie: “All day and night I talked to Csaba. He told me he felt ill because I did not want to be in a relationship with him.

“As usual, I tried to explain it so that he would would stop worrying. I told him he would surely find someone else in his life because he is a nice man.”

In the early hours of March 26 Herda decided to drive to the beach in Arklow to watch the sun rise. She admits that she called Csaba but claims it was because she was concerned for him.

“I was afraid of him, I wanted to see if everything is okay with him. He picked up and I heard moaning but he did not respond to my voice.”

She claims that on her way to the shore she passed by his home where she saw him in a distressed state.

Marta Herda and her close friend Katarzyna Blaszczyk with Katarzyna's daughter
Marta Herda and her close friend Katarzyna Blaszczyk with Katarzyna's daughter

“He suddenly ran out and got into my car. He told me he was finally going to explain everything,” she writes.

“He was so angry, his face was purple. He was shouting that I ruined his last hope and that nothing makes sense. He told me he did not want to live without me, and that I am in contact with people that I should not be speaking to.

“Suddenly a big bang. Bang. We hit something very hard and then we hit the water.

“Something pulled me down I could not do anything. I waved my arms and legs as fast as I could but nothing helped.

“Everything was black, I could not see. After some time, a wave threw me to the surface, but only for a moment.

“I called ‘Csaba’. I hoped that I could see him and help him. Again, I struggled for air. I did not have anything I could hold onto. The icy water made it difficult to pull away. I was numb and bent and I could not feel anything. I believed that was the end, I was not getting out of here and I was going to lose my life in the water. It grew black, black.”

Marta Herda and her close friend Katarzyna Blaszczyk
Marta Herda and her close friend Katarzyna Blaszczyk

Herda said she was swept by a wave onto a rocky shore where she eventually regained consciousness and tried to raise the alarm.

“I saw lights and, moving on all fours, I started screaming. I was shouting ‘help us’. But nobody was there.

“I gathered whatever strength I could and I got up. I ran and asked for help. I really wanted to get someone to hear us and help us.

“Then I saw a garda car. I wanted to explain but it was hard for me in English. I was so terribly afraid for Csaba and where he was.”

Herda was brought to hospital and then questioned by gardai. Her trial heard that during these interviews she told gardaí: "I feel I have enough of this… I drive to water. I cannot take this any more."

She now insists that this was a mis-translation and that Csaba’s death was an accident.

Marta Herda’s Sister Monika Lyzwa (second left ) with friends from left Rafal Czekaj, Katarzyna Blaszczyk and Mariusz Blaszczyk outside the Dochas Prision where Marta is held.
Marta Herda’s Sister Monika Lyzwa (second left ) with friends from left Rafal Czekaj, Katarzyna Blaszczyk and Mariusz Blaszczyk outside the Dochas Prision where Marta is held.

“On the day of the car accident gardaí questioned me without an interpreter. To be honest I did not understand anything, and as a result I was not even able to tell them exactly what happened. I did not remember what had happened.

“However, I know that I tried to work with the guard to explain what happened and why.”

She later adds: “I never wanted to take my own life or to kill Csaba. I respect life and others.

"I always try to enjoy what I have. I love my family. I am a humble person.”

Herda was charged with his murder 18 months later and she went on trial last summer.

The jury of eight men and four women began deliberating on Monday, July 25 and three days later they delivered a guilty verdict.

Herda, who had shown little or no emotion throughout the trial, continued to remain stony faced as the registrar read out the result. However she broke down and wept uncontrollably when the court rose for a number of minutes before sentencing.

“During the trial, not many understand but I knew that I had to fight for my life a second time.

“I hoped that everything would become clear that people will see that I did not do anything special.”

She continued: “When I was found guilty everything collapsed. I did not know why. How had this happened? They took me and kept me away from everyone. I do not understand how they convicted me, on what basis?”

Herda was moved to the Dochas Prison where she is now known as Prisoner 94081.

In her letter, written in Polish and translated, Herda explains that she spends her days attending classes, courses and taking part in competitions.

The arts and crafts enthusiast does get an opportunity to follow her passion and  friends and family proudly display some of the pieces she has made for them behind bars.

She claims she has suffered with depression since the death and had a fear of water for a long time afterwards. Csaba is never far from her mind, she claims.

“There is no day goes by that I do not think about Csaba. I am sorry he is gone. For me it is a very sad tragedy that will be with me forever, but I am not guilty of his death.”

Her primary focus now, she says, is on proving her innocence.

She writes: “I do not know the exact date of the appeal but I hope that this time everything will be revealed.

“I believe that people do not understand that I was never going to hurt Csaba.

“In the previous trial I hoped and deeply believed that all of this will be revealed and they would not accuse me of murder. But unexpectedly it ended badly.

“I hope that this time they will allow us to explain everything, that they will take our words into account. I hope that this time I'll be fairly treated and, step by step, all the details of the case will be thoroughly examined.

“I hope there will be a righteous judgment, which will prove it was an accident and not a murder.”

For their part, Csaba’s family are furious that she is attempting to appeal the conviction and they do not believe that Herda is either sorry or innocent.

"Herda has appealed the case, so I believe she doesn't care about my brother's life, because if she had a heart she wouldn't appeal,” said Zoltan in December. “She took my brother's life. She's a murderer.

"I hope she never comes out of jail. If somebody thinks I am a bad man because I think like this, try to think of how bad my life is without my brother - pain every day."

Asked if she feels guilty or sorry for his family Herda wrote: “I feel great compassion for the family of Csaba over the crippling loss of a loved one.

“I would like them to give me a chance explain. They cannot say that I do not regret what happened.

“They cannot burden me with the blame for his death.

“They can not live with the belief that their loved one was murdered because this is not true. I never had a chance to talk with them after the event. His brother left the country and none of them asked what had happened.

“I offer my sincere condolences with all my heart but I also have a huge sadness for being unfairly judged.”

Herda said she has not allowed herself to think beyond her appeal.

“It's hard to plan towards the future. I cannot make any decision over whether I will have a relationship or a child because my situation is not stable.”

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