The case at the Central Criminal Court
A meat factory worker has been jailed for nine years for using his boning knife to kill his housemate after losing hundreds of euro to him in poker.
The Central Criminal Court judge noted that the defendant had expertise in the use of the ‘extremely dangerous knife’.
Justice Tara Burns also said that a ‘very sad’ picture had been painted of both men, and wondered why they would leave their homeland to live here, do the unpleasant work they did and spend their spare time drinking and gambling.
She was speaking today (Thursday) as she sentenced the 39-year-old, whom a jury cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter with the knife from the factory’s ‘kill floor’.
Tomasz Paszkiewicz had told gardai that he didn’t have any thoughts in his brain at the time, and the defence argued that this showed lack of the intent necessary for murder.
He had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of fellow Polish man Marek Swider (40) outside their home on Dublin Street, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan on January 1, 2018. The pig farm worker died of two stab wounds to his upper body.
Justice Burns noted that both men were from the same town in Poland and knew each other since they were young men.
The accused had worked in a meat factory here, where his job was a deboner, which consisted of taking the meat off the animal’s head. He had been issued with a special deboner knife, she said.
“One can assume that this was a very sharp knife and that the accused had an expertise in using it,” she said.
She recalled that the deceased had won a lot of money from the accused in a poker game that night.
“The accused was unhappy with how things had gone. He stood up and picked up the money,” she continued. “The deceased objected.”
She recalled that the accused had asked the deceased to go outside and that they had left through the kitchen.
“In the course of this, the accused obtained his work knife from the kitchen,” she said.
She noted that he had said in interviews that he didn’t intend to kill him, and that ‘a power’ had moved his hand.
“The picture painted for both of these men is very sad,” she said. “One wonders why they would leave their homeland to come here,... do the unpleasant work they did and then spend their time drinking and gambling.”
A notable aggravating factor was that the killing had involved ‘an extremely dangerous knife, of which the accused had expert knowledge’.
She agreed with the State that it fell into the serious category of offences of this kind and she found that a headline sentence of 13 years was appropriate. However, she reduced this to nine years in light of his guilty plea, other mitigating factors and his personal circumstances.
Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, had last week read out a victim impact statement prepared by Mr Swider’s mother, Jozefa Swider, and sister, Urszula Swider. They did not attend the trial or sentence hearing.
They wrote that a part of their family was taken away from them on the night their son and brother was killed. They had always wondered why and continued to wonder every time they prayed together.
They asked why God’s law of ‘Do Not Kill’ had been replaced.
They said that it was difficult to put into words the huge sadness and grief they felt during piercing nostalgic moments. However, they lived with a sense of hope that they would all meet in one place again one day.
Paskiewicz then entered the witness box. Dressed in a lime-coloured shirt, he told his barrister, Kenneth Fogarty SC, that he was really sorry for taking Mr Swider’s life.
“I never intended to cause any harm to him. I want to apologise to his family,” he said. “I took his life. I’m fully responsible for that.”
He testified that he regretted very much what he did and wanted to apologise to his own family too.
The defendant said that his actions had also had a huge impact on the small Polish town where they were both from.
“I gave a lot of suffering, a lot of pain to a lot of people in my hometown,” he explained.
Paskiewicz stated that it was hard to find the right words to describe how badly he felt.
“Human life is priceless and everybody deserves to be happy,” he said. “I’m very ashamed of what I did to him… I’m ashamed that my actions took his life.”
Mr Fogarty asked him how often he thought of Mr Swider?
“Every single day,” he replied, adding that his apology was sincere.
Mr Guerin told the judge that it was the DPP’s submission that this was a ‘high-culpability case’ due to a number of aggravating factors.
These included that there had been a confrontation involving a potentially-lethal weapon with which the accused was very familiar; the accused either ‘was or ought to have been’ aware of the risk of serious injury; the deceased was stabbed twice; there was no provocation or self defence; the deceased had very little opportunity to defend himself; the confrontation was initiated by the accused as a result of losing money at cards; and the accused had left the scene without taking any care of the deceased, something that might be described as callousness towards his victim.
However, Mr Fogarty urged the court to view the killing as a medium-culpability case. He asked the court to take into consideration mitigating factors, including his guilty plea, lack of any previous convictions, evidence of remorse, his asking to be arrested and full cooperation with the investigation.
“He asked me not to plead for leniency in the real sense of the word,” said the barrister. “But I ask you to provide some light at the end of the tunnel.”