Saturday 3 December 2016

Slovakian jailed for raping teenager and clubbing her with a rock 18 times

Court hears Zdenko Turtak, a 22-year-old Slovakian Roma, clubbed his victim 18 times with a rock and left her for dead

Published 20/10/2015 | 13:44

Zdenko Turtak being searched at Leeds' Elland Road Police Station in July Photo: West Yorkshire Police/PA
Zdenko Turtak being searched at Leeds' Elland Road Police Station in July Photo: West Yorkshire Police/PA
The rock used by Zdenko Turtak
CCTV images dated 6/3/2015 issued by West Yorkshire Police of Zdenko Turtak walking around Beeston, Leeds on the night he carried out the attack

A Slovakian man who raped a vulnerable 18-year-old woman after dragging her from a bus stop and battering her repeatedly with a stone has been jailed for 14 years.

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Zdenko Turtak, 22, received the jail term at Leeds Crown Court as part of a 20-year extended sentence after attacking the woman in the Beeston area of Leeds in March.

The rock used by Zdenko Turtak
The rock used by Zdenko Turtak

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, said the attack would affect the victim for the rest of her life.

He said: "The effect has been profound, both now and, so far as one can see, that effect is likely to remain.

CCTV images dated 6/3/2015 issued by West Yorkshire Police of Zdenko Turtak walking around Beeston, Leeds on the night he carried out the attack
CCTV images dated 6/3/2015 issued by West Yorkshire Police of Zdenko Turtak walking around Beeston, Leeds on the night he carried out the attack

"She believes it will affect her whole life, including her prospects of marriage.

"In those short eight minutes you destroyed her young life.

"All her youthful hopes and dreams ebbed away in those few minutes."

The court heard yesterday that Turtak grabbed the woman, who was just 5ft tall, slim and wearing traditional Muslim dress, as she waited at a bus stop.

He carried her into a garden, where he beat her with a stone he had in his pocket and then raped her.

The attack was caught by a CCTV camera and footage was also found of Turtak following other women in Leeds in the hours leading up to this offence.

Turtak, from Velka Ida, Kosice, Slovakia, fled to his native country as a huge search was launched by West Yorkshire Police.

He was traced after a DNA match in Europe and extradited back to the UK.

Judge Collier said: "You seized her and by sheer brute force overwhelmed her and bundled her into the small garden. There was a high hedge between that garden and the footpath.

"Although she struggled, she had no chance of resisting you. Continuing your attack, you pushed her face down to the ground and held her down. With her face pressed against the ground she was unable to scream or raise any alarm.

"She tried to struggle free. In order to quell her struggling, you took a large stone from your pocket.

 "You then struck her 18 times about her head with ferocious blows. I am satisfied that you were attempting to render her into a state in which she would be unable to resist you."

Turtak, admitted rape and grievous bodily harm with intent earlier this year but denied attempted murder.

Earlier this month, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to accept his pleas and not put him on trial for attempted murder.

Judge Collier said Turtak was a "dangerous" offender. He said: "It is therefore necessary to impose a sentence for the protection of the public."

He imposed an extended sentence of 20 years, with a custodial sentence of 14 years and an extension period of six years.

Turtak will have to serve at least two-thirds of the custodial sentence before being considered for release. As Turtak was led from the dock, members of the victim's family shouted "monster" and "rapist".

Hunt for Zdenko Turtak highlighted European challenges and benefits

The hunt for Zdenko Turtak highlighted some of the problems the free movement of people across Europe presents to law enforcement agencies but also the value of crime-fighting co-operation between nations.

Turtak had been living in Leeds, on-and-off, for about four years - travelling from his home in Slovakia on the regular Bratislava to Bradford direct bus service.

But detectives said he left almost no trace of himself at all in the UK.

Working for cash, mainly at car washes, he had no bank accounts or any other kind of official record at all.

In fact the only written record police could find that he had ever been in England was a transaction at a Cash Converters store in Leeds some years before.

Even his bus trips across Europe did not leave a paper trail, detectives found.

Detective Superintendant Nick Wallen said Turtak's almost complete invisibility meant the search for him was one of West Yorkshire Police's most challenging investigations.

He said detectives get used to serious offenders who are integrated in the UK leaving a trail of their brushes with authority as their offending escalates.

Mr Wallen said: "But for someone coming into the country like this - we don't know who he is or where he's from."

He said: "It's really, really difficult for us to get to grips with and understand all of the people who are living in our communities.

"I think that was really brought home here in this case."

Turtak had spent most of his life in Velka Ida, in the Kosice region of Slovakia where he lived in an impoverished Roma settlement.

His criminal record there showed he had been arrested four times for burglary and served two sentences in youth custody. He had no record for sexual offences.

Turtak was eventually arrested after Interpol was alerted and West Yorkshire Police began a Europe-wide sweep of possible locations for their offender.

When a DNA match was flagged up in Slovakia, officers successfully applied for a European Arrest Warrant in Leeds and Turtak was arrested and held in custody in Bratislava while extradition proceedings took their course.

It later emerged that he left the UK on March 27 - three weeks after the attack.

 Mr Wallen said: "I'm so thankful the Slovakian authorities had that DNA or he'd still be there and we would not have a clue who he was."

He said: "Once we got the DNA match that established his identity there was still a long way to go to track him down and we had to conduct those enquiries very sensitively so we didn't alert him. The support and assistance we received from the Slovakian authorities with regard to that was incredible and was a key part of the success of this investigation."

But the senior officer said it was "frustrating" there was no Europe-wide database.

He said: "A European DNA database and a European sex offenders database - all of this would make it easier but we've got to balance it up with people's liberties."

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