Monday 17 December 2018

Woman (34) goes on trial accused of simulating suicide of housemate

Egita Jaunmaize. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Egita Jaunmaize. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
(Stock photo)

Alison O'Riordan

A 34-year-old Latvian woman has gone on trial accused of simulating the suicide of a housemate in Co. Cavan almost four years ago, in which the deceased died from neck compression.

Egita Jaunmaize of no fixed abode, is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of a man, knowing or believing him to have murdered Antra Ozolina (49) or committed some other arrestable offence at The Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan on or about June 27 or June 28 2014.

The prosecution allege that Ms Jaunmaize placed a blue cord around Ms Ozolina’s neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.

Ms Jaunmaize was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court yesterday and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC for the defence said this afternoon that his client accepts that Ms Ozolina’s death was not caused by suicide and she does not dispute that another named person caused Ms Ozolina’s death.

Opening the prosecution case this morning, Patrick Gageby SC told the jury that Ms Ozolina was a Latvian national who had been working for a number of years in a mushroom factory. He said Ms Ozolina lived in a smallish house, The Old Post in the village of Kilnaleck with Ms Jaunmaize and a man.

Counsel said Gardaí were alerted that there had been an event in Kilnaleck on June 28 and a number of people including the accused wanted to report this to Gardaí but they did not have good English. One of the Latvian nationals who spoke good English acted as a spokesperson.

The barrister said the jury will hear that Gardaí went to The Old Post where they found the deceased who was of a "slightly plump build" in an ensuite bedroom. The upper part of Ms Ozolina's body was in the shower tray, her face was blue and swollen and a nylon type rope was

around her neck. The rope was not attached to anything when Gardaí arrived and a vodka bottle was adjacent to the deceased's body. “There was no apparent sign of a struggle, at first flush it did not look like a crime had been committed,” he added.

Mr Gageby said Ms Ozolina’s death was not deemed to be suspicious at this stage but within a short period of time this changed.

Outlining the evidence the jury will hear, Mr Gageby said an initial autopsy was performed on Ms Ozolina by a local pathologist who was not trained in forensic pathology. He said the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis later detected there had been evidence of a crime. Dr Curtis found blunt force injury to Ms Ozolina’s head and face and determined that her cause of death was neck compression.

Mr Gageby said an investigation was undertaken and it was found that the rope’s function around the deceased’s neck was to give the idea that she had hung herself and suffered asphyxia.

Counsel told the jury they will also hear that Gardaí secured the assistance of an engineer who was able to show that the shower rail was the only thing that could have caused Ms Ozolina’s death but this could not have supported her weight. The evidence was that Ms Ozolina had not died by hanging herself, he said.

The barrister said the jury would hear that the accused was one of the first group who went to the Garda station and was therefore one of the central people to the beginning, middle and end of the garda investigation.

Mr Gageby said the accused initially told Gardaí that a man in question was not present on the night and he did not figure in the account. “Subsequently, as a result of careful garda investigation, it would appear the accused told garda the argument was more than verbal and that in fact the man was involved,” he said.

Mr Gageby further explained to the jury that Ms Jaunmaize ultimately told Gardaí that she had observed this man take Ms Ozolina by the neck and he choked her to death using his forearm. The man requested the accused to put a rope around Ms Ozolina’s neck with a view to showing this was suicide and not murder, said Mr Gageby.

The barrister told the jury that the issue in this case is not about whether Ms Ozolina died lawfully or by suicide and it will become abundantly clear that Ms Ozolina was murdered. He said the issue in the trial is if there was a reasonable excuse on the accused’s part of placing the rope around the deceased’s neck. “It will become clear as the case moves on that the accused admitted and agreed she did this act but she was fearful for herself and her own life,” he said.

A statement by Garda Arthur O’Connor was read into evidence by Mr Gageby this afternoon. Gda O’Connor said he received a phone call on the morning of June 28 informing him that foreign nationals had reported a woman's death in a house in Kilnaleck. Ms Jaunmaize, a male and a female met Gda O'Connor outside Kilnaleck Garda Station. The female told Gda O'Connor that Ms Jaunmaize did not speak English but she had found her housemate dead, she had killed herself.

Gda O’Connor made his way to a yellow terraced house with the three people and Ms Jaunmaize let them in using her key. Gda O’Connor went upstairs to a bedroom where he observed two "blue" feet on the floor of an ensuite bathroom. Upon entering, he observed a female in grey trousers and a pink jumper slumped on the floor inside the door. He saw a small amount of blood in the shower tray but he could not see where it was coming from. Her face was blue and swollen. There was a heavy towel rail with no towel on it and a metal rod on top of the shower. The left side of her face was in contact with the shower tray. He checked the body for signs of life and a pulse but there was none. A nearly empty bottle of Smirnoff vodka was on the floor beside her.

He did not notice anything suspicious nor any sign of a struggle. It appeared this woman had committed suicide by hanging herself from the shower rail, he said. He went downstairs and spoke to the accused who told him that her and Ms Ozolina had had a verbal falling out the

previous night and they were the only two people in the house at the time. At 8.40am the following morning the accused said she went into Ms Ozolina's bedroom and found her housemate with a rope around her neck, it was not attached to anything and she went to get help.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last two weeks.

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