Wednesday 19 June 2019

Truckers not guilty of murder

Death in Fermoy truck parking area a case of self defence, jury concludes

Two Polish truck drivers walked free from court this week after a jury took just over two hours to find them not guilty of the murder of a father of two who died following a row at a North Cork filling station.

Polish nationals Tomasz Wasowicz (45) and Marcin Skrzpezyk (31) had denied the murder of Hungarian, Ludowit Pasztor (40) at the Amber Filling Station at Carrignagroghera, Fermoy on February 21st, 2017.

This week at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork, a jury of eight men and four women took just two hours and 17 minutes to find both men not guilty of either the murder or the manslaughter of Mr Pasztor.

Neither man had given evidence but lawyers for them argued that their actions amounted to self defence when they got into a fight with Mr Pasztor and his Polish friend, Mariusz Osail (40) on the night in question.

Mr Pasztor and Mr Osail had got into a row with the two accused, who were driving for Macroom Haulage at the time, at the filling station and went back to Mr Osail's house where they armed themselves with two iron bars from a trampoline. They returned to the filling station where they confronted the two truck drivers but the accused managed to disarm them and struck them with the iron bars, with Mr Pasztor suffering a fatal blow.

Mr Osail told the court that he and Mr Pasztor only wanted to scare the two Polish truck drivers when they went back to confront them at the filling station. He confirmed they had an earlier confrontation with the two Polish truck drivers when they were leaving the filling station after buying cans of Carlsberg, explaining there had been "some unpleasant chat" between them.

Mr Osail said he and Mr Pasztor had been drinking earlier in the day and that when they returned to his house they had another drink when Mr Pasztor asked him for some bars and he pointed him to some trampoline poles behind a shed. "Ludo was insisting, he was saying it constantly and I said 'leave it, leave it - let's stay at home and drink more beers' - I don't know why we didn't stay at home - I don't know, I was just drunk - I am blaming myself, I live with it all the time," he told the trial.

Cross-examined by Mr Skrzpezyk's counsel, Tom Creed SC, Mr Osail rejected a suggestion that they had returned to the filling station to show the two truck drivers who were "the real Polish, who are the tough guys".

Cross examined by Mr Wasowicz's counsel, Tim O'Leary SC, Mr Osail said he didn't hit anyone with the iron bar and he didn't see Mr Pasztor hit anyone with the bar and he could not explain how Mr Wasowicz sustained a fractured wrist.

Truck driver Liam Byrnes told how he was sitting in the passenger seat of his truck cab, watching TV, when he heard some shouting and roaring near two Macroom Haulage trucks. "I just saw two men on the ground and two men standing over them with what looked like bars, hitting them," he said in evidence.

He said it was dark in the parking area at the back of the filling station and he couldn't see the faces of the two men ... and he saw them get into the two Macroom Haulage trucks.

Neither accused gave evidence but Mr Wasowicz told interviewing Gardai that on the night in question, he and Mr Skrzypezyk were talking in the cab of Skrzypezyk's truck and they each had two beers. Two men arrived outside the truck and started cursing, saying 'come on d**khead. If you are that tough, come on'. They were shouting and banging at the truck and he and his friend were afraid they would break a window of the truck.

He said they got out and they were pushing each other in the narrow area between two parked trucks and he recalled Mr Skrzypezyk shouting to him to be careful because someone had something in his hands.

"We got out of the truck and said, 'what are ye doing, ye are going to break windows'… I remember (someone) shouting he had something in his hands. They basically came to beat the shit out of us," Mr Wasowicz told interviewing gardai

"They could have been stoned. They were very aggressive. Normal people don't behave like that. Someone came to beat us. We came out of truck.

"They were aggressive and banging against the truck with something. We did not expect anyone to come to beat us and kill us. We did not know what they were planning.

"They came with the intention of doing something to us. I did not come to kill anyone. I just paused to rest (at the truck stop that night).

"They were like animals … my wife said to me (afterwards), why did you get out of the truck? We did not know they had poles," said Mr Wasowicz, adding that he had a dog and would not harm an animal let along a human being.

"They came to abuse us. I did not think it would turn to such a fight. I cannot comprehend how a human being would do such a thing to another person," added Mr Wasowicz whom the court heard suffered a fracture in the row.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said Mr Pasztor suffered a depressed complex fracture at the base of skull where she also found lacerations which were consistent with a single blow from an iron bar. Mr Pasztor died from brain injury due to blunt force trauma to the head.

Both accused broke down in tears in the dock when the jury returned their not guilty verdicts and Ms Justice Carmel Stewart told them that they were free to go as Mr Skrzypezyk's wife, Edyta, rushed forward to embrace him.

Down in the body of the court, Mr Pasztor's, widow, Andrea and their teenage daughter, Eva, who had been in court for all 11 days of the trial, broke into tears when they realized that the two men had been acquitted.