Tuesday 17 September 2019

Jury urged to acquit man accused of murdering the mother of his child

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

Eoin Reynolds

A barrister defending a man accused of murdering the mother of his child has accused the prosecution of engaging in "pseudoscience" to convict a young man who has lost his partner in tragic circumstances.

Michael Bowman SC urged the jury of eight men and four women to acquit his client, telling them that the deceased fell down the stairs.

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. He is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

In interviews with gardai Mr Veigulis said he was in the kitchen of his home with his young daughter when he heard a "boom, boom, boom" from the stairs.

He found his wife injured at the bottom of the stairs and called emergency services but she died later that day.

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Rita Apine

Prosecuting counsel Vincent Heneghan SC said that blood spatter patterns on the walls and on a hoodie belonging to the accused and injuries to both sides of the deceased's head showed that Ms Alpine was beaten to death.

He further pointed out that Deputy State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan told the trial that she had never before seen such injuries from a simple fall down the stairs.

Mr Heneghan reminded the jury that the pathologist told them that two of the head injuries could have been caused by a fall against the baby gate but it was "very unlikely" a third injury to the back of the head could have been the result of such a fall.

He asked them to consider the evidence of Dr Mulligan, Dr Sandra McGrath and Dr Stephen Doak, which, he said, will lead them to only one conclusion, that Ms Apine was assaulted and died as a result and that the accused is guilty of murder.

Mr Bowman opened his speech by telling the jury that the prosecution was relying on "pseudoscience" and "conjecture".

He told them that if they stress-test the evidence relied on by the prosecution they will find that it comes up short.

No weapon was found, he said, despite extensive searches of the house in circumstances where Mr Veigulis could not have left his home to dispose of a weapon.

If his hands were the weapon used, he said, bruising or cuts would have been obvious to gardai who spoke to him that day.

In the absence of a murder weapon being found, Mr Bowman said Dr Stephen Doak, the forensic scientist relied on by the prosecution, had suggested that a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs was the weapon.

This, Mr Bowman said, was "nonsense of the first and highest order". No weapon was found, he said, because there was no weapon.

Mr Bowman said Dr Doak had not "stress-tested" the evidence but instead had "shaman-like" told the jury what happened whilst "ignorant" of the alternative suggestions given by the accused.

He questioned a claim there was evidence of blood being cleaned from one wall, saying nobody found a "stitch of evidence" of any cleaning equipment being used and none of the people arriving at the scene smelled detergent or noticed wet walls.

He told the jury that despite only a thin door separating the home where Ms Apine died from neighbours and passersby, nobody heard anything

Addressing the evidence of Dr Mulligan, he asked the jury not to convict on the basis that she had never seen such injuries from a simple fall down the stairs.

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

He further questioned the blood spatter evidence, telling the jury that it is possible that spatter found in the narrow stairway came from the accused man vigorously moving his blood-stained hands as he tried to save his partner's life.

Mr Bowman said his client finds himself in a situation where he has lost his partner, the mother of his child, in tragic circumstances.

But Mr Bowman is heartened, he said, by his experience of juries giving true verdicts in accordance with the evidence. He asked them to test the evidence and to look at the words of Renars Veigulis and return "the only just and fair verdict" of not guilty.

Ms Justice Tara Burns told the jury that she will charge them tomorrow.

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