'There is a sadness, a pain deep down in our souls. We will never forget this'
The family of Marioara Rostas open their hearts about the moment they learned of her murder
WHEN the phone call finally came from the gardai to say that they had found his daughter four years after her disappearance, Dumitru Rostas mistakenly thought she was alive.
The gardai had asked him to come to Ireland.
"There was great joy in the family," he said.
What awaited them was the slow unravelling of the greatest horror that any parents or siblings could possibly have imagined.
He was escorted up to the Dublin Mountains where Marioara Rostas' remains had been found in a shallow grave, brutally encased in plastic and duct tape, having been brutally executed – shot four times in the head.
"I came with the belief that she was still alive," he said.
The image of his 18-year-old daughter's frail remains, bound and heartbreakingly mummified, haunts him to this day. "Only bones, only bones. Disastrous," Dumitru says.
He cannot escape it or ever hope to put it behind him.
"That picture will be with me always until the day I die," he adds.
Nor can he hope to forget the heartbroken telephone call he was forced to make to his youngest children, to tell them that "their sister had been found in the mountains".
"The children at home asked if I found her and I told them she was dead. I told them the police had found her in the mountains. They all cried. It was sad news. It was terrible," says Dumitru, whose youngest child is now aged 12.
"There is a sadness, a pain deep down in our souls that we cannot get rid of. We will never forget."
There were 15 children in the Rostas family and Marioara was the fifth eldest.
She never went to school. Instead, she was a willing helper with the younger children at home, cooking and cleaning as is traditional for young unmarried Roma girls, explains Dumitru.
She was a beautiful girl, both parents say and their hopes for her were simple ones – that she would find a husband and be happily married with children of her own.
"She was a beautiful girl, an obedient girl," he says. His words belie the depth of his meaning. In Roma terms, this is the highest compliment a father could pay his daughter.
Dumitru, his wife, Marioara senior and their son, Dumitru junior sit on the beds in the spartan hotel bedroom in inner city Dublin that has been their base since the murder trial of Alan Wilson began in January.
Earlier this week Wilson, of New Gardens in Dublin, was found not guilty of her murder.
The mother, who bears a striking resemblance to her daughter, says little, though tears regularly fill her eyes.
She has a frequent, racking cough.
This is a legacy, Dumitru explains, of the family's time in Ireland, when they lived in a tumbledown house with no heat, beds or electricity in Donabate, Co Dublin.
Other friends had arrived before them and had assured them that Ireland would be a good place to go to to earn money from begging.
"It was a deserted house with no electricity. We struggled.
"We said we would stay to make some money for the family for some food," he adds, explaining that they came to beg. The couple arrived in Ireland on October 12, 2007. Marioara followed on December 19.
His son weeps silently as his father tells how, during those first weeks, everything was "okay".
The family found the Irish people to be "merciful".
Dumitru no longer considers Ireland to be a good place.
"It would have been if they hadn't taken my daughter but now I don't consider it (to be) any more," he said.
On Sunday, January 6, the family had left their house to go into the city to beg, Marioara and her brother at one junction, their mother at another.
Dumitru junior last saw his sister alive as she was driven away from the traffic lights.
He was not worried. The man had told her that he would take her to McDonald's to feed her and would bring her back.
Marioara did not seem concerned, he said.
"She probably never imagined," interrupts his father. "She was probably happy. They told her they would buy her food and clothes. I don't think anyone could have imagined to kill her."
But by nightfall the family had grown concerned when Marioara had not come home. Her father tried to report her missing to the gardai but with little English, could not make himself understood.
When he displayed his daughter's identity card, they misunderstood and thought he was asking if she had been arrested.
The photograph on that card, now familiar to all, is the only picture ever taken of Marioara.
It was not until Dumitru's wife had to attend a court hearing on charges of begging that the family were able to convey to the authorities, through an interpreter appointed to her, that the young woman was missing.
The family stayed in Ireland for 10 or 11 months after Marioara disappeared, but were forced to leave the country and go back to Romania after they were ordered to leave their squat.
"We had nowhere else to go," says Dumitru.
Four years after her disappearance, when Marioara's coffin arrived back to their Roma gypsy village Tileagd, on the Romanian border with Hungary, Dumitru could not bring himself to allow anyone to see her.
"When we brought her back home my children were asking to see her but I had no courage to open the coffin. And I did not show them – I didn't want them to have those memories of her," he explains slowly.
For the family, it was vitally important that Marioara's remains were at least found. In Romany culture, it is believed that the soul of the deceased does not enter Heaven until after the burial.
Marioara was laid to rest alongside other relatives, including Dumitru's own mother.
The horse trader sold the family's only pony to pay for his daughter's funeral and also still owes his brother-in-law €3,000 because of the elaborate red brick crypt they erected for her.
Dumitru says he could never live in Ireland again.
"Not even to beg," he declares. Being here makes him feel "very stressed".
"It's difficult – it's tough – she was here with us. I always have this is my mind."
Wilson was found not guilty by the jury of her murder, and her killer is still out there.
His eyes filled with pain, her father addresses the killer directly, asking: "What did my daughter do to you? Did she do anything wrong?
"Everyone who commits these things – they have to be punished."