Murder accused waitress (29) killed colleague by 'driving car at great speed through crash barriers' into deep harbour, court hears
A 29-year-old woman has gone on trial, charged with murdering her colleague in Wicklow by driving him into a deep harbour, where he drowned.
The prosecutor told the jury that Marta Herda could swim and knew that the deceased could not, when she drove her car through the crash barriers at South Quay, Arklow.
The Polish waitress, with an address at Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 31-year-old Csaba Orsas on March 26, 2013.
Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, opened the case to the Central Criminal Court today.
He said the State’s case was that the deceased, a Hungarian, was the front seat passenger in a car deliberately driven over the harbour and into the sea shortly before 6am that Tuesday. It was the prosecution case that Marta Herda was the driver.
He explained that the incident happened at the harbour wall in Arklow, where the Avoca river flowed into the sea.
“It’s tidal, fast flowing, very deep water that allows large boats to come in,” he said.
Mr Grehan said that the road leading to the water was ‘almost like a runway in terms of its dimensions’.
He explained that there was a barrier at the end of this to prevent cars driving into the sea. There was an electrical box in the centre and this was also protected by a barrier.
“The evidence will show the car drove through both barriers into the sea,” he said. “The prosecution says it had to be driven at great speed.”
The jury was told that Ms Herda was taken to hospital and her car recovered from the water, while Mr Orsas’ body was found on a beach two miles away at lunchtime. A post-mortem exam found he died due to drowning and not due to injuries from the crash.
“The objective evidence suggests that Marta Herda, in a deliberate act, drove through those barriers,” said Mr Grehan. “The driver’s window was down, Marta Herda could swim, the deceased could not swim and Marta Herda was aware of that.”
Mr Orsas had lived at Brookview Court in Arklow and worked at the Brook Lodge Hotel in Wicklow. Ms Herda had been working as a part-time waitress at the same hotel, he said.
Mr Grehan said that one matter in particular would stand out for the jury: how the deceased came to be a passenger in her car shortly before 6am. He said the jury would hear telephone phone evidence.
“It was quite clear Marta Herda was able to escape,” he said, suggesting that the evidence would lead the jury to conclude that she was guilty of murder.
Security guard Gavin Nolan testified that he was working at a factory at Arklow Harbour that morning, and began a patrol of the area at 5.40am as dawn was breaking.
“I heard a vehicle coming from the town,” he said. “You could tell it was at high speed.”
He said that he could tell its speed from the sound of the tyres on the gaps between the concrete strips on the harbour. He said the revs were very high and it sounded like it was in a low gear, as though the driver wasn’t used to the vehicle.
“At one point, the car seemed to pause or go quiet momentarily,” he said. “It picked up again.”
He explained that he was entering a building around this time and that he expected to see a vehicle on the harbour when he came back out. He thought it strange that there was none there.
“Three to four minutes passed,” he explained. “I heard a noise. It started faintly and gradually grew into a screaming noise from a female.”
He said he then saw a woman running, and rang gardai.
“I called out but she didn’t respond,” he said, explaining that she had run in the direction of the town.
He said she was screaming something repeatedly and that he believed she was Polish.
“She was very, very distressed. Her clothes were tight to her skin as if in the water,” he said.
Garda Fiona Furlong testified that she and a colleague had responded to the call and found the woman a short distance away.
“She was soaking wet, frothing from the mouth and shaking,” she said.
“She repeated: ‘He’s in the water. You have to help,’ and pointed towards South Quay,” she recalled.
Garda Furlong and her colleague took the woman back to the quay, learning that her name was Marta. They saw a car bumper hanging off a broken barrier, but couldn’t see a car or another person.
She said that, once the ambulance personnel arrived, she learned that Ms Herda had been driving the car.
The trial is expected to last three weeks before Mr Justice McCarthy and a jury of eight men and four women.