News Courts

Thursday 14 November 2019

Man assaulted sleeping wife with a hammer on her birthday, court hears

Benko has pleaded not guilty
Benko has pleaded not guilty

Natasha Reid

A 42-year-old man has gone on trial, charged with attempting to murder his wife on her birthday by hitting her over the head with a hammer while she slept.

The court heard that the accused had left their Dublin home early on his wife’s 32nd birthday, before returning with flowers for her.

However, the prosecutor said that instead of bringing the flowers upstairs to his sleeping wife, he brought up a lump hammer and hit her over the head with it at least three times.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the woman was now confined to a wheel chair most of the time, had communication difficulties and would depend on full-time care for the rest of her life.

Andrzej Benko of Ladyswell Road, Mulhuddert has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to the attempted murder of Joanna Benko at that address on July 5, 2010.

Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, told the jury it would have to decide whether Mr Benko intended to kill his wife when he assaulted her.

The court heard a recording of the emergency call Mr Benko made as he drove to Blanchardstown Garda Station that morning.

“The problem is that probably I killed my wife and now I’m on my way to you to be jailed,” he said. “Ring an ambulance. Maybe you can save her because I hit her by hammer in head.”

Garda Rosanna Coll testified that he was ‘panicked and agitated’ when he arrived into the station. He was afraid the emergency services hadn’t understood him on the phone.

“She was in bed sleeping on her right side,” he told her, adding that he’d hit her left temple three times with a hammer.

“She was shouting at me illogically every day since January,” he said.

“When I was going upstairs, I intended to kill her,” he said. “I wanted to, then didn’t want, then want.”

He said he used about 20% of his force but the hammer was heavy.

“I wasn’t thinking,” he continued. “I was destroyed financially and emotionally.”

When asked if he had anything to add, he said his wife was associated with ‘drug dealers and gangsters’.

“I’m guilty, I know,” he said later. “I’m just praying she is to survive.”

He said his wife had been taking drugs for a long time, had stopped taking amphetamines in 2005 and started smoking cannabis.

He said that she had been spending money ‘illogically’ since December 2009.

“I had no money for mortgage and had to borrow,” he said.

The court heard that a garda had kicked in the front door on arrival at the Benko home that the various emergency services were on the scene quickly.

Dr Niamh Collins was on one of the ambulances and gave evidence that Mrs Benko was lying on a bed wearing bloodstained clothes.

“A large part of the bed was covered in blood,” she testified.

“She had a significant left-side head injury in the temporal and eye area,” she recalled. “She was having a seizure.”

She said the advanced paramedics administered medication to stop the seizure.

Dr Collins said the patient was unresponsive, had severe reduction in consciousness and that her pupils were unequal and not reacting to light.

As they travelled in the ambulance, her left arm was moving vigorously, but her right arm was lying limp by her side.

Dr Edward Mulligan cared for Mrs Benko on her arrival in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown. He said a depressed left skull fracture showed up on a CT scan, along with extensive brain contusions and raised inter-cranial pressure.

“She was transferred to Beaumont for neurosurgery,” he said.

He said she had a tube to help her breathe until she returned to Connolly the following month. She was still bed-bound and being fed through a tube.

“She wasn’t able to communicate very well. She had significant lack of power in her right arm and leg, indicating a problem to the left side of the brain,” he explained. “She needed full nursing care.”

He said she was able to sit up and use an electric wheelchair but had no speech by the time she was discharged in September 2011.

A clinical neuropsychologist testified that when he assessed Mrs Benko last April, she was using one and two-word sentences. Mark Mulrooney added that she scored just 60 per cent in an understanding test.

“She can transfer from a wheelchair to a seat, allowing a little more independence,” he said.

He said that she was reliant on her mother, who had commented that her daughter had become more childlike.

“Her mother informed me that she’d regressed quite significantly in her ability to function as an adult,” he said.

“I would expect she would make very little more recovery,” he said, adding that she would be unable to give evidence in court.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of two women and 10 men.

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