Court of Appeal
A man given life for the murder of a prostitute’s guardian, in a Co Cavan brothel seven years ago, has lost an appeal against his conviction.
Polish national Przemyslaw Trebacz (39) of Bramble Rise, Killynebber, Cavan had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Costel Catalin Cretu (38) at Connolly Court, Connolly Street, Cavan between October 13 and 14, 2012. However, he admitted causing criminal damage to a door at the Connolly Court apartment complex, in Cavan, on October 13, 2012.
The defence case was that Trebacz was seeking the services of a prostitute while the prosecution case was that Trebacz and another man had gone to the apartment for the purpose of a robbery.
The Central Criminal Court heard Mr Cretu was stabbed once in the chest and once in the back and died at the scene.
A jury of nine men and three women returned a majority guilty verdict of 10-2 after almost 10 hours of deliberations. Trebacz was accordingly given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Barry White on February 17, 2014.
His conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal today.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the accused went to the apartment, with two other men, in a taxi.
The taxi driver gave evidence that he heard reference to a “Soviet attack” - a term explained by the accused to gardaí as an “expression in Poland when people want to get aggressive and fight, it comes from fighting the Russians”.
The taxi driver described the accused as having had “something solid” concealed in a sock held in his hand.
He said he saw the accused bang on the front door of the apartment building, kick it in and enter, before two of the men returned five to ten minutes later with their faces covered.
Inside, was the deceased and two females, Florentina Sotir and another person who was not properly identified and could not be found. Ms Sotir made three statements to gardaí and contended that the truth of what happened was to found in her second statement, whatever else she may have said.
Mr Justice McCarthy said “many deficiencies were apparent in her evidence” and “perhaps unwisely”, the trial judge was moved to described her credibility as being “totally shot”, in the absence of the jury.
However, he said issues of credibility were matters for the jury, as the trial judge rightly stated when he refused to direct Trebacz’s acquittal on the murder charge.
He said the court could see no inadequacy in the trial judge’s summary of the relevant evidence.
He said Trebacz’s counsel, Alan Toal BL, sought to engage extensively with the merits of the prosecution with special reference to Ms Sotir’s evidence.
A submission was made on the layout of the apartment, on the basis that Ms Sotir could not have seen the stabbing as described by her because of where she was located at the time.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick McGrath SC, accepted the witness was flawed but the case did not rely solely on her evidence.
Mr McGrath said there was evidence from a taxi driver before and after the attack, who was asked to wait outside while Trebacz and the other man violently broke into the apartment. They came out with their faces covered and could be heard "counting money”.
Mr Justice McCarthy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, and Mr Justice John Edwards, said there was no reason to believe Trebacz’s trial was unsatisfactory or the verdict unsafe.