Friday 20 September 2019

Dad cleared of murder of partner who fell on stairs

Tragic accident: Rita Apine, who died, and Renars Veigulis
Tragic accident: Rita Apine, who died, and Renars Veigulis

Eoin Reynolds

A man who was charged with murdering his partner, but maintained from the outset that she fell down the stairs, has been acquitted by a jury.

Following the verdict at the Central Criminal Court, Justice Tara Burns told Renars Veigulis: "You are free to go."

Mr Veigulis (32), of Bridge Street in Freshford, Co Kilkenny, had been charged with murdering his partner Rita Apine (29) at their home on or about May 14, 2017.

Mr Veigulis maintained from the outset that he was playing with his daughter in the living room and heard a "boom, boom, boom" from the hall.

When he looked into the hallway, he saw Ms Apine at the bottom of the stairs with blood coming from her head.

A pathologist said Ms Apine's injuries were not consistent with a simple fall down the stairs and that she had never seen some of the injuries caused by such a fall.

Mr Veigulis's defence barrister, Michael Bowman SC, instructed by Tony Collier Solicitors, asked the jury not to convict on the basis that the pathologist had not seen such injuries before.

"You fall down stairs in as many ways as there are people who fall down stairs," he said.

The jury took 10 hours and 21 minutes in its deliberations.

Mr Veigulis wiped his eyes and hugged his lawyers following the not-guilty verdict.

Gardaí were alerted to Ms Apine's death after Mr Veigulis called emergency services and said: "Hello, can I talk with Kilkenny ambulance please, my wife has fallen down the stairs." Paramedics gave evidence of attending the scene at Ms Apine's "heavily bloodstained" home.

Dr Stephen Doak of Forensic Science Ireland said: "There was more to the event than someone just landing at the bottom of the stairs. These blood-staining marks are significant and I felt there was a forceful event that occurred at the time."

Dr Doak observed a large area of blood-staining on the wall beside the first step and there was blood-staining on top of the baby-gate at the bottom. Dr Doak said he also found hair swipe blood patterns on the wall of the stairs.

But Mr Bowman said that the scientist had not considered the evidence given by the accused man, that he had moved the body and attempted resuscitation. This, Mr Bowman said, combined with the fall could have accounted for all the blood staining.

Dr Doak also said he was of the opinion there had been an attempt to wipe out blood-stained patterns on interior walls behind the front door.

Mr Bowman questioned a claim there was evidence of blood being cleaned from one wall, telling the jury that nobody found a "stitch of evidence" of any cleaning equipment being used.

Mr Veigulis was in custody during his trial but is now free to go.

Irish Independent

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