Murder accused 'didn't mean to harm the deceased', court hears
A murder accused has taken the stand in his defence and told his trial that he didn't mean to harm the deceased and regrets what he did every day.
Rihards Lavickis (25) of Annaly Court, Longford has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of Akadiusz 'Arek' Czajkowski (31) at Rue Noyal Chatillon, Townspark in Longford on November 1, 2016. His plea was not accepted by the State and he is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.
He admits stabbing the deceased, but told his defence counsel John Shortt SC that he was stressed out, that he "lost it" and had a "kind of a blackout", only realising later on what he had done.
He said he is not the kind of person to stab anyone and that he felt as though his brain turned off.
Addressing Mr Czajkowski's family, he said he is "really sorry" and can't believe that his loss of control could have caused such serious harm. He said he had no anger towards Mr Czajkowski and will never forgive himself. He finished by saying that he regrets it every day.
Mr Lavickis began by telling the court about his childhood in Latvia. He was one of five children and his parents separated when he was young. They were "pretty poor", and lived by growing their own vegetables and keeping a few animals - turkeys and goats.
One of his three brothers died in prison. At age 14 Mr Lavickis came to Ireland to live in Dundalk with one of his brothers, but that brother became addicted to heroin. The accused began using cannabis and would take tablets on the weekends but he later moved to live with his mother in Longford and started school. He learned to speak English fluently but when he moved to a school in Longford Town he started using drugs and getting in trouble with the guards. He skipped school and was taking prescription medicines such as Benzodiazepines. By the age of 16 he had his first conviction for carrying a knife that he had used to attempt to hot wire a car.
He later got a job at a local golf club but was let go when gardai charged him with possession of drugs including ecstasy and cocaine. After that he began selling drugs full-time "Monday to Sunday, non-stop." He has one child with his partner Inita. They lived together at the time of the stabbing.
He first met the deceased, whom he knew as Arek, in 2015. Arek lived beside him but his apartment had no electricity so the accused would charge his phone or boil his kettle for him. The friendship started with that, he said but then on one occasion, at a party in Arek's flat, the deceased started shouting and "losing control". and broke his own windows before going outside and breaking the window of a neighbouring apartment. After that, he said Arek would argue, curse and shout at him. "I could feel that he had something against me," he said.
In April 2016, some time after the incident in the flat, the accused got €300 worth of cannabis from Arek. He didn't have the money but agreed to pay him on the Monday. That Friday Arek called to the accused's flat with a friend and "demanded the money". There was an argument and as the accused went to walk away Arek struck him on the head with a knuckle duster and knocked him to the ground. The deceased and his friend then kicked Mr Lavickis repeatedly.
After that the accused agreed to pay Arek, but only €200. He handed over the money and thought the debt was closed but every time he saw Arek after that there would be arguments, shouting and cursing. On one occasion the deceased was with five other men and told the accused he wanted to fight him. The deceased would also tell Mr Lavickis that he had read in the newspapers that he was going to prison for drug dealing and asked him what would happen to his home and his girlfriend if he goes to jail. "He was trying to start with me again," he said.
On Halloween night, the night before the stabbing, Mr Lavickis was walking with two friends through a Tesco carpark when the deceased and two other men pulled up in a car. Arek demanded money and threatened to beat Mr Lavickis up.
When Arek and the two men got out of the car, the accused said he saw one of them carrying a stick so he and his friends ran away.
The following morning he awoke to find the window of the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, two children and his girlfriend's mother and sister, had been broken. He believed Arek was responsible and felt stressed out and frustrated. He wondered, "when is this going to end. It was just too much."
There were arguments in the flat about his drug dealing and the windows being broken. The accused was worried that someone would get hurt. He thought about it for a time and decided he would go to Arek and tell him to "leave it off" and that if Arek had a problem he should say it up front and not be breaking his windows, that there are children in the apartment.
He took a knife and went to the deceased's apartment but didn't find him. He said he didn't intend to use the knife but he knew Arek had used weapons in the past, like the knuckle duster. He added: "If something goes wrong and something is used against me, at least I have something as well."
The accused went home and then went out to meet a friend near Longford Shopping Centre. He still had the knife on him, but said he was no longer looking for Arek. But then he saw the deceased talking to a man and started getting stressed out and felt like he was going to snap. He could feel his adrenaline getting high.
He said he had a mix of alcohol and drugs from the previous night and that morning and wasn't thinking straight. He said it was "coming down on top of me, the fighting, the arguments, the windows broken." He asked himself when it would all end. He wasn't angry, he said, just stressed out.
He took out the knife "to give him a fright". He added: "I was expecting him to have weapons and to attack me."
He remembered going after Arek and pushing him as the deceased walked backwards and then, "the next thing I remember was, he fell."
He said he had a "kind of a black out" and only understood that he had stabbed him later that day when talking to his girlfriend and then to gardai. He told the court he "lost it" and he didn't mean to stab anyone, adding that it was just "craziness" and that it felt like his brain had turned off. He said: "It's not the kind of person I am, to stab anyone."
Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, put it to the accused that he did not tell gardai that he had a blackout when interviewed over two days immediately following the stabbing.
Mr Lavickis said he was on drink and drugs at the time and that gardai should have tested him for that. The accused denied that he was lying about having a blackout and said: "I didn't take this seat to be telling lies in front of the jury." He further stated: "Maybe I didn't feel like telling the guards." He repeated that he was on drugs at the time of the interviews.
Mr McGrath suggested that the accused knows that if a jury considers that the accused was "overcome with loss of control" when he killed Mr Czajkowski, then he would be guilty of manslaughter and not murder. He said Mr Lavickis has learnt that this is something to put into evidence and that it is a deliberate lie. Mr Lavickis denied the suggestion, adding, "it is easy to lose control when you are on drugs".
Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh said there will be a two-day break in the trial to allow a juror attend a family event and to facilitate a legal argument. The trial will continue in front of the jury of six men and six women on Friday.