Two Polish truck drivers who denied murdering a man at the truck stop of the Amber filling station in Fermoy were found not guilty today.
One of the lawyers in the case asked why a murder charge was ever brought and who had made the decision to prosecute for murder.
The jury of eight men and four women took two hours and 17 minutes to return with their unanimous verdicts at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork yesterday.
Tomasz Wasowicz, 45, and Marcin Skrzypezyk, 31, were both found not guilty of the murder of Ludovit Pasztor, 40, on February 21, 2017, at the Amber filling station at Carrrignagroghera, Fermoy.
They were also found not guilty of manslaughter. There were tears of relief from both accused. The wife and a daughter of the deceased also wept in court as the not guilty verdicts were delivered.
When the verdicts were delivered at noon today, at the end of deliberations that commenced on Monday afternoon, the two accused put their hands to their faces and wept. They also hugged each other briefly.
Ms Justice Carmel Stewart thanked the jury for the close attention they gave to matters in the trial and for the vital part they played in the criminal justice system which, she said, could not be overstated.
With no other matters against the accused who had been on bail on the murder charge they were free to leave the courthouse.
Daithí Ó Donnabháin, defence solicitor, said on behalf of Marcin Skrzypezyk. “He is delighted and relieved to have the ordeal put behind him and is grateful for the hard work of the judge and jury in the case. He would like to say that at all times he was treated very fairly by the gardaí. He is delighted to have the matters put behind him now.”
Mr Ó Donnabháin added: “As his solicitor, I have to say on his behalf, he has suffered over the last two years being charged with the most serious charge in the state. Given the appalling lack of evidence in the case I ask the question – who directed that a murder charge be brought when it was quite clear to be an absolutely defective prosecution?”
Tomasz Wasowicz spoke afterwards through an interpreter and said he was very happy. He thanked his counsel, Tim O’Leary SC and Emmet Boyle BL, solicitor Matthew Bermingham and legal executive Fiona Hennessy.
“I also thank the jury and the trial judge. I would like to thank everybody – especially the jury. They approached this case as a human being. It was extremely hard. I lost a job twice (since February 2017). The worst of it was when they arrested me I spent a week in prison. I was released from prison on the Friday. My mother died on that Saturday morning. That was the worst time,” Tomas Wasowicz said.
As for his future plans, he said: “I bought a house in Ireland over ten years ago. I still have a mortgage. My wife and children live here. After 16 years it is my country as well. I am connected here. I am working here 16 years. It is hard work and no one gives me anything for free.”
The two men who were acquitted yesterday were sitting in the cab of one of their trucks at around 10pm on that night in February two years ago drinking beer and chatting about the working day when the deceased and his friend came knocking at the lorry, carrying long iron bars from a trampoline frame, following a minor exchange of words a few minutes earlier.
The two accused told gardaí the deceased and his friend came at them “like animals” and carrying iron bars.
Marcin Skrzypezyk admitted using one of the bars which the deceased and his friend brought to the scene. Skrzypezyk said he took it off the ground or from one of the men and defended his friend (Wasowicz) who was under attack by striking one of the men on the lower back and shoulder – no more than two blows.
Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster testified that he died as a result of blunt force trauma to the back of his head consistent with being struck once by an iron bar.
Marcin Skrzypezyk told gardaí: “They both charged at Tomasz. I tried to say something like, ‘calm down’. I tried to separate them. One of them fell on the ground… He was unconscious."
In a later interview he said Tomasz Wasowicz said to the two men when they arrived at his truck to, “Get the f*** out of here.”
He said that the two men said to Wasowicz, “You think you are so f***ing strong, so f***ing tough.” “One of them had a kind of stick and he tried to hit Tomasz with the stick… I cannot say I grabbed a stick from the guy or from the ground. All I am saying is that I was not fighting with anyone at that stage. Tomasz went down with hands over his head to protect himself. I have no marks. I was not participating in fighting. Tomasz asked for help.”