Tuesday 23 January 2018

Woman (29) guilty of murder after driving man into harbour to seek bail pending appeal

Marta Herda Picture: Collins Courts
Marta Herda Picture: Collins Courts
Brother of Csaba Orsos, Zoltan Sandro, speaks to the media at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after the verdict. Pic Collins Courts.
Marta Herda outside Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins
Marta Herda (29), arrives at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Pic Collins Courts
Marta Herda (29) at the Central Criminal Court where she pleaded not guilty to the murder of Csaba Orsos. Photo: Collins Courts

Ruaidhri Giblin

A 29-year-old woman who drove a man who loved her into a deep harbour, where he drowned, will seek bail in April pending an appeal against her conviction for murder.

Marta Herda, of Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, Co Wicklow was a good swimmer and knew that her passenger could not swim, when she drove her Volkswagen Passat through the crash barriers at South Quay, Arklow shortly before 6am on March 26, 2013.

The Central Criminal Court heard that she escaped through the driver’s window at the harbour but her colleague’s body was found on a nearby beach later that day.

A post-mortem exam found that 31-year-old Csaba Orsos died from drowning and not from injuries related to the crash.

The trial heard that the handbrake had been applied before the car entered the water and that the only open window was the driver’s.

The Polish waitress had pleaded not guilty to the Hungarian man's murder.

Marta Herda killed Csaba Orsos by driving off a pier in Arklow Picture: Collins
Marta Herda killed Csaba Orsos by driving off a pier in Arklow Picture: Collins

She was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury and was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on July 28, 2016.

Herda has lodged an appeal against her conviction. Her lawyers sought a date to apply for bail in the Court of Appeal today pending the hearing.

Brother of Csaba Orsos, Zoltan Sandro, speaks to the media at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after the verdict. Pic Collins Courts.
Brother of Csaba Orsos, Zoltan Sandro, speaks to the media at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin after the verdict. Pic Collins Courts.

Counsel for Herda, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, told Mr Justice George Birmingham that it was an appropriate matter for bail.

A “discrete, clear ground” of appeal had been established on the material which would give rise to a “strong chance of success” in Herda's appeal against conviction, Mr Ó Lideadha said.

The matter would not require consideration of the whole transcript, Mr Ó Lideadha said, and would only take approximately half-an-hour to hear oral arguments on.

Mr Ó Lideadha said he would have made his application earlier but wanted to “make sure our contentions were supported by what was said and not said by the (trial) judge to the jury”.

Marta Herda outside Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins
Marta Herda outside Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

Mr Justice George Birmingham listed the bail application for hearing on April 5 next.

Mr Ó Lideadha said his side had a detailed affidavit. It was their intention to put in a written submission “which would be very brief”, counsel said.

Marta Herda (29), arrives at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Pic Collins Courts
Marta Herda (29), arrives at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Pic Collins Courts

Trial

The Central Criminal Court jury heard that Mr Orsos was in love with her. Herda told gardai that she didn’t feel the same way, and that he had spent two years following her, phoning her and sending her messages.

On the day of his drowning, she showed them a love letter he had sent her the previous year. She told detectives they were constantly arguing about their relationship and that they had been arguing in the car when she drove into the water.

A security guard had heard the car coming at speed from the town. He said that it had seemed to stop momentarily before picking up again. He heard nothing else for three or four minutes. He then saw and heard a woman screaming as she ran towards the town.

This was Marta Herda and the gardai found her soaking wet and frothing at the mouth a short time later. She told them that there was someone in the water and that they had to help.

The search for her passenger began as she was taken to hospital. She told a paramedic: ‘He shouldn’t have been there. I drove the car into the water,’. He testified that she was concerned and kept repeating the name, Csaba.

She later told a garda that he was dead because of his love for her. She said it was 24 hours a day and that she couldn’t take it anymore.

“People think this funny but not for me,” she said on the day of the drowning. “The second year it no longer funny.”

She said that he had got into her car and wanted her to drive to the beach, but that he began screaming at her.

She said she remembered hitting the accelerator.

“I feel I have enough of this,” she said. “I drive to water. I cannot take this anymore.”

She said she recalled being under the water.

“I screamed his name. I saw ladder and got out,” she said.

She was arrested on suspicion of murder more than four months later and denied in garda interviews that she had driven into the water deliberately. She was asked why she had told a garda on the day of the incident: “When I drove into the water, I wanted this all to stop.”

She replied that she did want it all to stop and for him to leave her alone. She said he had been screaming in the car and she’d wanted him to stop.

She said she was hoping to save him if she had seen him in the water. She said she had to fight for her own life under the water.

“I would never want to hurt anyone or even to destroy my car,” she said.

CCTV footage showed her driving to the part of Arklow where Mr Orsos lived around 5.30am, and a witness heard the driver having a heated argument on the phone. Call records showed that she rang the deceased three times around that time and a postman found his front door wide open later that morning.

Her interviewer put it to her that she had ‘lured him out of his house’.

“This is horrible,” she responded. “Everyone is looking at this story from the last few seconds.”

She said it had been going on for two years.

“Yes, I was stressed and nervous,” she said, when asked if the car was going fast.

“I didn’t want to drive there. It was an accident,” she said, explaining that they had been arguing in the car.

“I couldn’t understand what he was saying and then, bang,” she said.

She agreed that he was a nuisance and a pest. She said she had told him she could never be with someone like him because he would lock her somewhere.

Herda turned away from the jury and wept silently as a video was played of the deceased celebrating his last birthday with her and his family in his home.

His brother could be heard telling her that she was his present. She could be heard replying that she had come to warn the deceased that his manager knew he had lied when he had rung in sick.

In his closing speech, the prosecutor said her car was used ‘as an instrument of murder’.

Her barrister said that it would be suicide if she had driven into the harbour deliberately and that there was evidence that she wasn’t suicidal.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told them that they had three possible verdicts open to them: guilty of murder, acquittal or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The jury returned to court at 11.36, having spent eight hours and 11 minutes deliberating. They had found her guilty of murder by a majority of 11 to one.

Herda showed no emotion as the registrar read out the verdict, but became emotional when the court rose for a number of minutes before sentencing. She was comforted by her legal team and a number of friends.

Herda wept uncontrollably as Mr Justice McCarthy signalled for her to stand while he imposed the mandatory life sentence. She was then led away from her friends by prison officers.

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