Wednesday 18 September 2019

'It was like a different face and body' - woman asked to identify deceased friend tells murder trial

Renars Veigulis denies murder of Rita Apine
Renars Veigulis denies murder of Rita Apine
Rita Apine
Rita Apine

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A woman asked to identify the body of her deceased friend - whose partner is on trial for murder - said it was like looking at a different face and body.

Renars Veigulis (32) of Old Bridge Street in Freshford, Co Kilkenny has pleaded not guilty to murdering Rita Apine (29) at their home on or about May 14, 2017.

Mr Veigulis told ambulance staff that his partner fell down the stairs, while prosecuting lawyers have told a Central Criminal Court jury they will hear evidence that her injuries were inconsistent with a fall.

Opening the trial on Tuesday, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Vincent Heneghan SC, said the accused and the deceased were from both Latvia.

Mr Veigulus came to Ireland about five years ago, followed six months later by Ms Apine, and in 2016 they moved to Freshford, about 20 miles from Kilkenny City.

Latvian national Gatis Kuhalskis gave evidence to Mr Heneghan today that he had been living in Ireland for 11 years and worked with Mr Veigulis in the Kilkenny Design Centre.

Mum Rita Apine
Mum Rita Apine

Mr Kuhalskis agreed he was having a normal day on May 14, 2017, until he got a phone call from a friend telling him to go to Mr Veigulis’ house.

On arrival, he said he was given a shock to see a woman on the street, who he thought was Ms Apine, receiving CPR from an ambulance crew.

Mr Kuhalskis said the accused told him Rita had fallen down the stairs and hit her head off a child-safety gate that was located at the bottom of the stairs. Mr Veigulis told him he hadn't seen the fall, Mr Kuhalskis said.

He said he was handed the two-and-a-half year old daughter of Ms Apine and Mr Veigulis, who he took to his partner’s house soon after.

Renars Veigulis
Renars Veigulis

Under cross examination by Mr Michael Bowman SC, for the defence, Mr Kuhalskis agreed that Mr Veigulis was "shocked and upset" and smoking heavily.

Estonian national Julia Sinjagina gave evidence to Mr Heneghan that she had been living in Ireland for about 10 years and became friends with Ms Apine over the course of a year and a half before her death. Ms Apine was like a daughter to her, Ms Sinjagina said, because she was the same age as her own daughter.

Ms Sinjagina agreed with Mr Heneghan that she didn’t think Ms Apine had many friends in Freshford and she would go to Kilkenny to do her shopping.

She said Ms Apine was a nice person, a happy person, who cared very much for her daughter.

Rita Apine
Rita Apine

Ms Sinjagina said she confirmed the identity of the body after Ms Apine’s death. She agreed her face and body were terribly damaged. She provided a photograph to gardaí of Ms Apine.

It was like “two different faces, two different bodies”, Ms Sinjagina said comparing the photo of Ms Apine with that of the body she was asked to identify.

The trial continues tomorrow before a jury of seven men and five women with Ms Justice Tara Burns presiding.

The jury has heard that paramedics resuscitated Ms Apine at the scene and took her to hospital but she died later that day.

A garda at the scene noticed blood spatter that he did not think was consistent with a simple fall down the stairs and an investigation began.

A forensic team found further blood spatter which they say was inconsistent with a fall and evidence that blood had been wiped from a wall prior to the arrival of paramedics and gardaí, the jury heard.

Mr Heneghan said forensic scientists examined Mr Veigulis's clothing and found, on his top, evidence of blood spatter which was not consistent with the version of events he put forward.

He told the jury they would hear a post mortem examination showed the deceased had suffered severe blunt force trauma that was not consistent with a fall down the stairs, Mr Heneghan said.

During garda interviews the accused maintained that Ms Apine died as a result of the fall.

The jury heard on Wednesday the audio of Mr Veigulis’ 999 call.

Speaking to an emergency call-taker with the National Ambulance Service, the jury heard Mr Veigulis say: “Hello can I talk with Kilkenny ambulance. Please, my wife has fallen down the stairs.”

The emergency-call taker accepted, under cross examination from Michael Bowman SC, for the defence, that Mr Veigulis was clearly distressed and anxious. The jury could hear he was breathing heavily.

“Please, please very fast. All blood on the floor, please,’ the defendant was heard telling the emergency call-taker.

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