A 34-year-old Latvian woman has gone on trial accused of simulating the suicide of a housemate in Co. Cavan.
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 Roman Ponomarcus, 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 (Monday) and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Opening the prosecution case this morning (Tuesday), Patrick Gageby SC told the jury that this trial concerned the death of a woman called Ms Ozolina, a Latvian national who was divorced but had some family. She had been working for a number of years in a mushroom factory which he said was "a modest enough type of job".
Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Gageby said Ms Ozolina lived in a smallish house, The Old Post in the village of Kilnaleck with Ms Jaunmaize and the accused’s boyfriend, Mr Ponomarcus.
Counsel said Gardaí were alerted that there had been an event in Kilnaleck and a number of people wanted to report this to Gardaí but they did not have good English. This included the accused, said Mr Gageby.
The barrister said one of the Latvian nationals had good English and he acted as a spokesperson for the group. A phone call was made to Gardaí by this man and it was established that Gardaí would meet these people at the old garda station in Kilnaleck as they had something to say about Ms Ozolina’s death.
Counsel 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, he said. The rope was not attached to anything when Gardaí arrived. In the room adjacent to Ms Ozolina’s body was a prayer book and a vodka bottle. “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 and a number of things happened.
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 was then asked to come in and he detected there was evidence of a crime. Dr Curtis found evidence of blunt force injury to Ms Ozolina’s head and face and determined that her cause of death was neck compression.
Mr Gageby went on to tell the court that 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 in fact the rail 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 Ms Jaunmaize originally told Gardaí she had had a verbal row with Ms Ozolina on the evening of June 27. She told gardai she had found Ms Ozolina’s body the following morning when she went into her bedroom. The accused said she then went to her friend’s house whose son spoke English in order to to bring the incident to the authorities attention.
Mr Gageby said the accused initially told Gardaí that Mr Ponomarcus 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 Mr Ponomarcus was involved,” he said.
Mr Gageby further explained to the jury that Ms Jaunmaize ultimately told Gardaí that she had observed her boyfriend take Ms Ozolina by the neck and he choked her to death using his forearm. Mr Ponomarcus 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.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last two weeks.