Wednesday 20 September 2017

Businessman 'murdered' by lap dancer bride while they celebrated 1st wedding anniversary, inquest told

Ganna Ziuzina with her husband Barry Pring Credit: Shaughan Pring/PA Wire
Ganna Ziuzina with her husband Barry Pring Credit: Shaughan Pring/PA Wire

Johanna Carr

A wealthy British businessman who was run over in the Ukraine was "murdered" by his internet bride while they celebrated their first wedding anniversary, his best friend has told an inquest into his death.

Barry Pring, 47, suffered horrific injuries when he was hit by a vehicle - possibly a lorry - while waiting for a taxi outside a restaurant in Kiev with his wife, Ganna Ziuzina, on February 16, 2008.

Mr Pring married Ms Ziuzina, a former stripper who was almost 20 years his junior, in 2007 but his family and friends said they did not believe she loved him and that she treated him coldly.

His best friend, Peter Clifford, was best man at the couple's Kiev wedding and, giving evidence at the inquest at Devon County Hall on Tuesday, said Mr Pring was "totally under her influence".

He said: "There is no reasonable doubt in my mind that Barry was murdered, nor is there any reasonable doubt in my mind that Ganna Ziuzina either arranged for, or was complicit in, his murder."

Coroner, Dr Elizabeth Earland said that "strenuous" - but ultimately unsuccessful - attempts had been made to try to get Ms Ziuzina to attend the hearing.

She read out a statement given by Ms Ziuzina who said she had given three separate statements to police in Ukraine and did not "believe I can add anything further".

Mr Pring's brother, Shaughan, said he believed Ms Ziuzina was "only interested in Barry for his money and saw their relationship as an opportunity to better her position financially".

Irene and Shaughan Pring, the mother and brother of Barry Pring, outside Devon County Hall, Exeter, where an inquest is taking place for the wealthy British businessman who was run over in the Ukraine Credit: Johanna Carr/PA Wire
Irene and Shaughan Pring, the mother and brother of Barry Pring, outside Devon County Hall, Exeter, where an inquest is taking place for the wealthy British businessman who was run over in the Ukraine Credit: Johanna Carr/PA Wire

He added that his brother was "besotted" by the woman, who he knew as Anna, but that she "became very demanding", asking for money.

The inquest heard Mr Pring, originally from East Devon, set up his own consultancy business aged 30 after moving to the London area and that his career required him to travel extensively.

His mother, Irene, said in a statement that her son started seeing Ms Ziuzina, who he said was a teacher, when he was 46.

She did not find out until later that they had met on a website - www.elenasmodels.com - which describes itself as an "online Russian and Ukrainian dating site for men who are looking single women and girls for friendship, relationship and marriage" or that Ms Ziuzina was working as a lap dancer or stripper.

Mrs Pring said her son frequently flew to Kiev and started supporting Ms Ziuzina financially after she stopped working as a stripper.

In early January 2007 Mr Pring told his parents to expect an announcement and then phoned on January 23 to say he would be marrying four days later.

"No one from our family was invited," said Mrs Pring. "Barry returned to live in London. Anna stayed in Kiev, moving to the apartment that Barry had bought ... we all expected her to get her visa straight away."

But Ms Ziuzina did not get a visa until August that year and then did not come to live in the UK.

Instead, she visited for two weeks with her mother, before travelling to Devon with Mr Pring to meet his parents for the first time.

Mrs Pring said of the visit: "I was quite surprised to see how cold she was towards Barry.

"She was not loving or caring towards him at all. She never lifted a finger [or did] anything. She was a lazy thing ... she was not providing a home for my son."

The court heard Mr Pring, who owned a total of five properties including three in the London area, bought another apartment in Kiev and sent Ms Ziuzina £40,000 to finish it.

She spent that Christmas with Mr Pring in Devon before flying back to Ukraine again, his mother said.

Just before his last trip to Ukraine, Mr Pring told his mother, in their final conversation, that the apartment was nearly finished.

Mrs Pring heard about her son's death when his brother, Shaughan, came to tell her that Ms Ziuzina had phoned to report that he had been killed.

She said the family became suspicious and hired a private investigator in Ukraine, spending £100,000 in an attempt to find the truth.

"We are sure that Anna had some involvement in Barry's death in order to inherit money or property," she added.

"Our family has lost a treasured son, brother and uncle which will have an affect on us all for the rest of our lives."

The inquest heard how after Mr Pring's death, Ms Ziuzina travelled to London, sold her husband's Range Rover and the contents of his apartment and removed money from his British bank account.

Dr Gyan Fernando, then a Home Office pathologist, examined Mr Pring's body after it was returned to the UK from Ukraine.

In a statement read out at the hearing, he said there was no paperwork returned with the body and that the cause of death was "multiple injuries" including fractures.

He said the injuries, which included "traumatic separation of the trunk", were "extremely unlikely" to have been caused by a car and that it was more likely Mr Pring had been run over by a heavy vehicle such as a truck.

The inquest heard that blood tests revealed alcohol in Mr Pring's blood at the time of his death, which indicated that he was likely to have been intoxicated to some degree.

The case was investigated as an unexplained road traffic accident but police in the Ukraine upgraded their inquiry to a murder hunt in 2011.

The hearing continues.

Detective Constable Jonathan Watts, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said he had been in London looking for Ms Ziuzina last week and added that it was likely she was abroad.

He said the force had not been able to question witnesses directly or the Ukrainian police but details passed to him through Interpol included information from witnesses who described the vehicle that hit Mr Pring as travelling at high speed with no lights.

Stolen number plates found at the scene came from a vehicle parked near where Ms Ziuzina had lived in Kiev in 2007 "giving rise to the assumption that the act was pre-planned", he added.

DC Watts said the couple had gone out to dinner after Mr Pring said he wanted to have traditional Ukrainian food and had travelled - at Ms Ziuzina's suggestion - 22-25 miles (35-40km) from their address to get to the restaurant.

They arrived at 9pm and sat at a table in the middle of the room. During the meal, for which the bill came to 110 US dollars, they ordered 20 50g measures of vodka.

They paid the bill in cash at 11.30pm after Mr Pring's credit card was declined and Ms Ziuzina called the same taxi firm that had dropped them at the restaurant but said it would take 40 minutes for a vehicle to reach them. Mr Pring said this was too long and they would hail a taxi from the road, the inquest heard.

DC Watts said a "call was made but she was not logged by a Taxi Express worker, suggesting that she had not actually spoken to a call operative".

He added that it was not possible to stop a car or taxi on the highway but the pair left the restaurant and were seen by witnesses to be outside for 30 to 40 minutes before descending to the westbound carriageway - heading in the wrong direction - and Mr Pring was seen to climb over the safety barrier.

A loud noise was heard before witnesses saw a car pinning an "object" to the inside of the barrier for one to two seconds, said DC Watts.

He added that the object came to rest on the safe side of the barrier and was Mr Pring's body.

He said of the accident: "Witnesses describe a car travelling at 75mph. There was no evidence of braking or slowing before the car left the scene. Witnesses recorded their impression that it was deliberate."

The police were called and Ms Ziuzina was spoken to before asking to be allowed to go home at 2am.

DC Watts said she left her house again shortly afterwards and returned to an area near the accident, staying for about three hours.

He said Devon and Cornwall Police had been unable to directly contact Ms Ziuzina "at any stage"

Freelance journalist Graham Phillips told the inquest he became involved in investigating the case while working for a magazine in Kiev in 2012.

He interviewed a stripper friend of Ms Ziuzina's, Tatiana, who described her co-worker as a "gold digger" and said she had not loved or cared for Mr Pring.

Mr Phillips said he asked Tatiana if Ms Ziuzina could have killed Mr Pring and she said "it was eminently possible" and "absolutely something Anna was capable of".

He added that Ms Ziuzina's family had refused to talk to him and had been "hostile".

The coroner said she found that Mr Pring had been unlawfully killed.

She said: "His guard was lowered by inebriation. The car had stolen licence plates and did not brake or stop.

"I am satisfied that having heard all the evidence... much of it circumstantial, nevertheless, in my view it is overwhelming.

"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Barry John Pring has been unlawfully killed."

She said the case demonstrated the difficulty in investigating a case of a death abroad and added: "Our thoughts and condolences must go to the family who have endured years and years of distress and unhappiness."

Dr Earland added that Mr Pring had been "tricked" into standing on the westbound carriageway of the busy road to hail a taxi, despite that being the wrong direction.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Pring's brother Shaughan Pring said the family's fight for justice would go on.

He said: "It is the verdict we expected. However, it is still not going to get us justice for Barry."

Shaughan Pring said Ms Ziuzina was still a free person and that the family would take advice from their solicitors on the next step.

He said he "didn't hold his breath" that anything would happen in Ukraine, and added: "We are not just going to pack up and go home."

Speaking after the hearing, DC Watts said: "I'm happy with what's been said today. Clearly the coroner has had an opportunity to make a really well-weighted decision of unlawful killing and the narrative that she had added to that is of significance as well."

DC Watts said Devon and Cornwall Police had no jurisdiction over the case but that if further information came to light the Ukrainian police would have to consider its position. He said the UK police had had very little contact with the Ukrainian authorities.

He added: "We clearly feel that had we had jurisdiction, and we haven't, then things might have ended differently."

He said the Pring family had "driven things in the Ukraine".

"I think the way they've conducted themselves has been very dignified and very energised as well," he said. "They have put a great deal of money and energy into trying to get answers about Barry's death.

"Ultimately, it hasn't ended as they would have wished but does a case like this ever end?"

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