Rafal Karaczyn is not a cold-blooded killer who planned his wife's death, but a devoted father who lost all self control and caused the death of "the very thing he loved the most", his barrister has told the Central Criminal Court.
The prosecution, however, have told the jury that Natalia Karaczyn's wish to move on with her life was not a provocative act.
Barristers for the prosecution and defence delivered their closing speeches today to the jury of eight women and four men in the trial of Rafal Karaczyn (35) of Crozon Park, Sligo. Mr Karaczyn has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not guilty to murder for the unlawful killing of his wife Natalia Karaczyn on April 29, 2018.
The issue for the jury to decide, both barristers said today, is whether Mr Karaczyn intended to kill his wife when he strangled her and if he was provoked to such an extent that he temporarily lost all self control. The trial has heard that Ms Karaczyn, who repeatedly told the accused that she wanted to end their marriage, came home at about 6am having had sex with another man.
Mr Karaczyn came to her room and asked where she had been. He told gardai that she pushed him from the room and when he came in again asking where she had been she slapped him twice in the face. In garda interviews Mr Karaczyn said: "I really don't know what happened. I started to strangle her and after a while she started to slide down." He also told gardai that he was under "very big stress" or "in a rage".
Defence barrister Brendan Grehan SC told the jury that the verdicts available to them are guilty of murder or guilty of manslaughter. He contrasted Ms Karaczyn's death with obvious cold-blooded gangland-style murders or with a husband who "decides he wants out" of his marriage, kills his wife and plans out the crime so he can cover his tracks. "That is what I mean by cold-blooded," he said, adding that Mr Karaczyn's crime "could not be further" from such a killing.
If there was a plan in place, counsel said, "the last place to carry it out was in the house with the children present who could have walked in at any moment." If planned, Mr Grehan suggested, Mr Karaczyn would have arranged to meet his wife elsewhere or he would have done it when the children were being babysat. Mr Karaczyn used no weapon and afterwards, when he decided to get rid of the body "for the sake of the kids", he had to back the car into the driveway because he hadn't planned the disposal of the body.
Mr Grehan further noted that his client only approached his neighbour afterwards to find out if his CCTV would show Natalia arriving home that morning or show him backing the car in the driveway. He also drove "aimlessly" up and down various roads outside Sligo in search of a place to hide her. He had no spade and no prepared site for the body which he ended up leaving loosely covered with branches in a wooded area close to the road.
While Mr Karaczyn had left a "false trail" Mr Grehan described it as "an absolutely pathetic one". He followed that with what Mr Grehan described as a "cock and bull story", in which he said a Traveller killed Natalia, that served only to further arouse garda suspicions.
After admitting to the killing, Mr Grehan said his client had told gardai that he didn't intend to kill his wife, but that he "grabbed her and she died before he could stop". It was, counsel said, a reaction, not premeditated and he did not wish for her death. He added: "It was in the heat of the moment and he is criminally liable for that but the question is whether he is the cold-blooded killer the prosecution would portray or someone who simply lost all self control for that critical period of time."
Mr Karaczyn, counsel said, is not an aggressive person, was a good worker with no convictions in Ireland or Poland, had never come to adverse garda attention, has no history of domestic violence and was a devoted father in love with Natalia. But, Mr Grehan said, he "exploded and did something he will regret until the day he dies."
Counsel asked the jury to imagine a scenario where a man comes home early in the morning with lipstick on his collar, smelling of cheap perfume and his irate wife demands an account. He continued: "He tells her to get lost, slaps her and pushes her around and she grabs a knife and stabs him. Could anyone suggest she had planned it, that it was premeditated, that it was akin to where someone plans to bring about a result, or just someone who has lost it in the emotional circumstances into which they are thrown?"
He asked the jury to treat Mr Karaczyn in the same way that they would treat such a woman. Mr Grehan finished by saying his client, "acted in an uncharacteristic fashion and caused the death of the very thing he loved the most."
Prosecution counsel Conor Devally SC told the jury that provocation cannot arise out of sexual jealousy or possessiveness. He said a recent Supreme Court decision has stated that juries cannot use provocation to reduce murder to manslaughter simply because a man was jealous and wanted to possess his wife. Ms Karaczyn's wish to move on with her life is not, counsel said, a provocative act.
Mr Devally added: "So all you are left with is him being slapped and not told where she has been and perhaps some humiliation in being thrown out of the room. Is that a circumstance where society at large would be able to say his uncontrolled rage was provoked by an action of Natalia?"
Mr Devally said the evidence of the slap and Ms Karaczyn pushing the accused out of her private room are "a trigger that is pathetically mild". He said it would be "ludicrous" to say that the slap "unhinged him". If the jury is satisfied that the killing was prompted by jealousy or a wish to possess his wife, Mr Devally said the correct verdict is murder.
He asked the jury to consider a series of text messages dating back one year prior to Ms Karaczyn's death, in which she repeatedly told the accused she wanted to end the marriage and he repeatedly told her he loved her and wished to fix their relationship.
He asked the jury to consider whether these texts reveal that he was "not going to let this woman leave the relationship". If that was the reason for the violence, he said, then it is murder.
Ms Justice Eileen Creedon will deliver her charge to the jury tomorrow.
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