Monday 15 October 2018

Witness tells trial he saw woman 'arguing on phone in a car' shortly before alleged murder

Accused woman Marta Herda Picture: Collins
Accused woman Marta Herda Picture: Collins
South Quay, Arklow (Photo: Google Maps), Inset left; murder accused Marta Herda; right, deceased Csaba Orsas

Natasha Reid

The trial of a woman charged with murdering her colleague has heard that a witness noticed a woman arguing on the phone in a car shortly before the accused is alleged to have driven him into a deep harbour, where he drowned.

Paul Hickey was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court today on the second day of the 29-year-old’s trial.

Marta Herda with an address at Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, Co Wicklow is charged with the murder of 31-year-old Csaba Orsas around 6am on March 26, 2013.

The Polish waitress has pleaded not guilty to murdering the Hungarian at South Quay, Arklow.

Mr Hickey testified that he left his home for work around 5.20 that morning. Within five minutes, he walked past a gold or silver Volkswagen Passat parked half on the Wexford Road and half in a parking space. The engine was running, he said.

He explained that this was not something he would usually notice on his way to work. He could generally count the number of cars he would see at that time on one hand.

He said that he had noticed this car before because it had rubber eyelashes over the the headlights.

“I could see someone in the car alone, on the phone, very animated, like some argument was going on,” he said, confirming that the person was female.

He said he could see her gesticulating with her hand.

He said that a cyclist passed him later as he made his way through the town, and the same car with the same driver passed him soon afterwards. He identified himself from CCTV footage captured on the main street.

Csaba Orsas
Csaba Orsas

“Even though it was half five in the morning, I noticed the car never overtook the bike, even though it had a chance to,” he said. “That’s why I really took notice.”

He said the driver was still on the phone and still animated.

South Quay, Arklow (Photo: Google Maps), Inset left; murder accused Marta Herda; right, deceased Csaba Orsas
South Quay, Arklow (Photo: Google Maps), Inset left; murder accused Marta Herda; right, deceased Csaba Orsas

“It actually sounded like a heated argument,” he said, explaining that the car was travelling very slowly. “I heard a loud voice.”

He was asked about the tone, but said it was hard to tell ‘with a different language’.

He said that at one stage the car pulled in for 10 to 15 seconds and he believed that the driver was still on the phone at that time.

He learned about the incident at the harbour later that day.

“I seen the car that I’d seen that morning had been pulled from the river,” he said. “I contacted the guards.”

Under cross examination by the defence, he agreed that he hadn’t mentioned an argument in his statement to gardai that day, but had used the word, ‘animated’.

The jury also heard that a postman found Mr Orsas’ front door open about two hours after the car entered the water.

Stephen Mitchell testified that he was delivering post to Brookview Court in the town around 8.15 that morning, when he noticed the door to one house was ajar. The jury had already heard that this was the home of Mr Orsas.

“It was open a couple of feet,” he recalled, explaining that he found it unusual.

He said that a garda car pulled up as he was leaving and the officers asked where that particular home was.

“I said it was the one with the door open,” he said.

The court later heard that Ms Herda had two mobile phones, one that she used for the majority of her contact with the deceased and one that she used to contact others.

Garda Michael Hall testified that gardai did not get records for her second phone, but did for her other phone, which he said was the one she had originally told them about in interview.

He confirmed that, from his analysis, Ms Herda used the first phone to call other people.

He gave details of 10 missed calls from Ms Herda to a mutual acquaintance between 5.06am and 5.17am on the day of the incident. She then called the deceased three times, the final call being at 5.35am and lasting two minutes.

He said that in the 48 hours or so before the incident, Ms Herda called the deceased 12 times; eight of these calls were from her second number. During the same time, the deceased called her 13 times and sent her nine texts. All the calls and seven of the texts were to her second number.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of eight men and four women.

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