Monday 19 February 2018

Woman on trial for murder of former partner and housemate told gardaí she stabbed him in self-defence - court hears

Monika Matracka leaving Limerick District Court following a previous hearing
Monika Matracka leaving Limerick District Court following a previous hearing

Alison O'Riordan

A woman on trial for murder told gardaí that she stabbed her housemate and former partner in self-defence, prosecutors have told a trial jury.

On Monday at the Central Criminal Court, Monika Matracka (35), with an address at The Pines, Briarfield, Castletroy, Limerick pleaded not guilty to murdering Michal Rejmer (38) at that address at a time unknown between 8pm on December 30 and midnight on December 31, 2015.

Opening the prosecution case this morning, Mr Paul Carroll SC told the jury that they will hear about events that occurred around New Year’s in 2015 concerning a Polish national called Michal Rejmer who had been living in Ireland for some time.

Mr Rejmer was residing with the accused, who is also Polish, at an address in Castletroy in Limerick.

The barrister said the jury would hear during the course of the trial that Ms Matracka and Mr Rejmer had been in a relationship but that had ended some time ago and they continued to share the house along with another Polish national who was away at the time.

Mr Carroll said they would hear that Mr Rejmer was working at McDonald’s in Castletroy and he had been working away there until December 30, 2015.

“He left work at 8pm that evening and returned home but he wasn’t seen by his work colleagues again,” said Mr Carroll.

Counsel said the jury would hear from a number of his work colleagues who became concerned over the coming days as he was missing from work which was not like him and on January 6, 2016 a manager from McDonald’s contacted gardaí expressing concern.

Counsel said the jury would hear that when gardaí called to the house in Castletroy on January 6, Ms Matracka was there and said the last time she saw Michal Rejmer was on December 30 at 11pm.

Mr Carroll told the jury they would hear that when gardaí called to the house again on January 8 they took a statement from Ms Matracka.

“She told gardaí she had sent him a text message on January 2 wishing him a Happy New Year but didn’t get a reply. She said they wouldn’t be in the house a lot together and wouldn’t see each other due to shift work but on January 6 when gardai came to the house she became worried," he said.

Counsel told the jury they would also hear about a voluntary organisation in the Limerick area that helped when people went missing and organised search parties in the area.

Mr Carroll said a search was carried out in relation to this matter.

Mr Carroll told the jury they would hear that the body of Mr Rejmer was discovered by his friend and a local volunteer at the rear of his house in Castletroy under some plastic sheeting.

The jury were told that a post mortem was carried out by the Chief State Pathologist Marie Cassidy on January 9, 2016 and she gave the cause of death as haemorrhage from stab wounds to the arms. Mr Rejmer also had defensive wounds on his hands.

The barrister told the jury they will hear that on January 9, when gardai were in a nearby garage that Ms Matracka got upset and told gardai: “I did it. I killed Michal.”

The accused was subsequently arrested and brought to Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick.

“There will be a number of garda interviews where she was asked about what happened. Ultimately they will be in evidence in the case,” said Mr Carroll.

Mr Carroll told the jury that when the accused was asked about what happened, she said she was attacked by Mr Rejmer.

“It is the prosecution’s contention that there are many inconsistencies in those interviews as to what happened on that night,” said Mr Carroll.

The barrister said Ms Matracka told gardai that Mr Rejmer had entered her room with a knife, he was grabbing and shaking her, screaming that he needed money. Some years previously he had given her money for study and was looking for it back.

Mr Carroll told the jury that Ms Matracka told gardai that Mr Rejmer had fallen down the stairs and the knife had fell from his hand. She said she picked it up and she effectively stabbed him while he was trying to get back up.

“She outlines she subsequently burned this knife and there is evidence from gardai of locating this knife in a nearby bin. You will hear about her saying she was attacked first by Mr Rejmer who had a knife and that ultimately she was defending herself,” he said.

The court heard that one of the areas the jury will have to consider is whether the defence of self-defence arises in this case.

“The prosecution’s position is the evidence in this case is such that a verdict of murder should be returned in this case,” said Mr Carroll.

This afternoon prosecution counsel Mr Carroll called Thomas O'Connor, who was one of the manager's in McDonald's and knew Mr Rejmer, to give evidence.

The witness told Mr Carroll that the deceased enjoyed running immensely as well as enjoying photography.

The court heard that on January 6, 2016 Mr O'Connor became aware that Mr Rejmer had not shown up for work since December 30, 2015 and he expressed this concern with another manager.

Mr O'Connor suggested that two co-workers at McDonald's would go to Mr Rejmer's house "to find out what the story was."

The witness told the court that he contacted gardai at Henry Street Garda Station on the evening of January 6 and two gardai arrived to the restaurant shortly afterwards.

Mr O'Connor said gardai asked him was he aware of any mental health problems Mr Rejmer may have had but he said he was not.

On January 9, Mr O'Connor accompanied a guard to the mortuary to identify the deceased's body.

Mr O'Connor agreed with Mr Mark Nicholas SC, defending Ms Matracka, that the deceased's English was not very good and as a result of this he worked in the kitchen of McDonald's and not at the service desk.

The prosecution also called Helen Halpin, another manager in McDonald's, to give evidence.

Ms Halpin was working with Mr Rejmer on December 30 when he asked her could he go home early as it was quiet in the restaurant.

The court heard that Mr Rejmer was due to work his next shift on New Year's Eve but he never showed up so she thought he had got his hours mixed up. When she rang his mobile phone on several occasions, she just got an "engaged beep tone."

When Ms Halpin tried Mr Rejmer's phone again on January 4 she got a "dead tone."

On January 6, Ms Halpin spoke to Thomas O'Connor about Mr Rejmer as she was "quite concerned."

The prosecution also called Rebecca O'Connor, who was working in McDonald's at the time, to give evidence.

Ms O'Connor told the court that she became concerned on January 6 when she found out Mr Rejmer had not shown up for work for a couple of days as this was "very unusual."

The witness said she rang her Polish boyfriend, Luckasz Vegrzya, who had previously worked in McDonald's with him.

"He tried to contact him on January 6 but the result was that his phone was turned off. I asked Luckasz to ring his friends to see had they heard from him and no one had heard from him," she said.

Ms O'Connor called to Mr Rejmer's house on January 6 with another work colleague and Ms Matracka answered the door.

"We asked her did she see Michal and she said no," she said.

Another witness, Luckasz Vegrzya, was called by the prosecution to give evidence. Mr Vegrzya, originally from Poland, told the court he met Mr Rejmer in 2007 when he was working in McDonald's. They became friends and would meet outside work.

He was aware that Mr Rejmer and the accused had been in a relationship previously and that Ms Matracka moved from Poland to Ireland in 2013.

Mr Vegrzya became aware that they broke up sometime after April 2014 but continued living in the same house together.

The witness agreed with Mr Nicholas that prior to 2013 Ms Matracka was studying in Poland but came to visit Ireland on occasion. Mr Vegrzya also agreed that the deceased was sending Ms Matracka money for her studies on a regular basis and when she finished her studies she left Poland and came to Ireland.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul Butler and a jury of six men and six women. It is expected to last between two and three weeks.

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