'I helped to fake suicide out of fear,' gardaí told
A mushroom picker told gardaí she was in fear for her life when she simulated the suicide of her housemate on the orders of the killer.
The 34-year-old Latvian woman is on trial at the Central Criminal Court, charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of Roman Ponomarcus, knowing or believing him to have murdered Antra Ozolina (49) or committed some other arrestable offence.
It's alleged that Egita Jaunmaize placed a blue cord around Ms Ozolina's neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.
The accused, of no fixed abode, has pleaded not guilty to carrying out the offence at their home at The Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan, on or about June 27 or June 28, 2014. However, she accepts that Ms Ozolina's death was not caused by suicide.
Detective Garda Gerard Shaughnessy gave evidence yesterday of interviews conducted with the accused afterwards.
She said that there had been a row in the house between her and the deceased in the presence of Ponomarcus on the night of June 27. He left, she said, and she went to bed.
However, she said that she woke to screaming and found Ponomarcus assaulting Ms Ozolina in the deceased woman's room. "I tried to push him away but couldn't," she said. "He punched me in the stomach."
She said that he continued to assault Ms Ozolina. "He was choking her," she said. "I heard her making a noise from her mouth. I asked what it was."
She said that Ponomarcus replied that it was "a dead person's noise".
"I screamed: 'I'm not going to prison because of you. I will tell gardaí. I have a child.' He grabbed me by my neck."
She said he told her that if either of them went to prison, she wouldn't have him anymore. "I was so afraid if I go to gardaí he will kill me too," she said.
"He said we need to set it up as if she did it herself," she said. "He got a rope. He said to me to put it on … I was forced to do it."
She said that Ponomarcus held the deceased up so that she could put the rope over her head. "He did the rest himself," she said.
Jaunmaize said that she eventually agreed with his plan to tell gardaí that her flatmate had hanged herself.
She kept to this line during a number of voluntary statements and in her first interview as a suspect. The accused eventually agreed that she was under the duress of Ponomarcus, whom she described as a "skinhead neo-nazi".
The trial continues.