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They stated the accident was in fact a murder. 30-year-old woman with life sentence in Irish jail.
Dublin, maximum security prison for women. This is the place, where 30 years old Marta Herda has been serving lifetime sentence, for a year now. Polish woman was sentenced for lifetime inprisonment for premeditated murder of her colleague, 31 years old Csaba of Hungarian descent. Four years ago she drove her car at high speed to the river, the man drowned.
„It’s not fair”
Video recording in the facility is not allowed. We are able to speak with her only because the inmates can call selected persons two times a day for six minutes each.
„It was hard for me to listen. Plenty of things that don’t add up at all. I know that a man died, but to give me a murder [sentence]… I will never agree to that,” says Marta Herda and adds, „It’s not fair.”
Both lived in Arclow, a small town south of Dublin. They had known each other for two years. They worked as waiters in a luxury hotel outside the town. The man served restaurant guests. Marta was in charge of organizing wedding parties.
„She was a wonderful employee. Clients liked her because she was friendly and outgoing. She worked as a waitress in a big turnout restaurant and did her job well,” says Trevor Wardell, a worker from where Ms. Marta was also employed.
„Before the accident she was a happy, joyful girl,”recalls Mariusz Błasczyk, Ms. Martha’s roommate. He hardly knew the Hungarian who died in the accident . – „I couldn’t stand him. To me he was mentally unstable. The more she rejected him, the more he turned on for her,” he says. He adds that Ms. Marta showed him the place, from which the man was supposedly watching her window. – „She didn’t report [this – editor’s note] to anyone. She only complained to us,” says Mariusz Błaszczyk.
„The last thing he did was he yelled at me: >>you destroyerd my last hope<<,” recalls Marta Herda. She claims there was no relationship between her and the Hungarian. – „He wasn’t my boyfriend, I didn’t have any sexual relationship with him, not even kisses. We didn’t meet outside work. All the situations just happened out in the town,” she says. She adds that the man was jealous of everybody who spoke to her or e.g. parked a car beside her.
„He saw her from the window and ran out to the street”
Marta’s friend, Katarzyna reconstucts the course of the tragic car ride for us.
„This is the neighbourhood where Marta lived and here is where she departed from. She often waited till 5-6 in the morning, droveto the beach for sunrise and called her mother,” says Ms. Katarzyna to the reporter of UWAGA! and recounts the events of the tragic morning. – „At some point she thought about Csaba. She called him because she was afraid that something would happen to him. On numerous occasions he threatened her he would kill himself if she didn’t even kiss him. He was so obsessively in love with her,” says Ms. Katarzyna. – Csaba saw her from the window and ran out to the street. He asked her to stop and to drive with him to the beach because he had something to tell her,” she recounts.
There are doubts about the behaviour of Polish woman in the day of the accident. For example, why did she call and stop by the house of the man whom she avoided?
„Never in my life did I ask him in or invite him into my car. I did stop, I wanted to try to get along with him, so it would be just good. It was stupid, I regret that very much,” says Marta Herda. – „There’s no explanation to that,” she adds.
This time the man was supposedly jealous of Marta’s aquaintance with other work colleague, also Hungarian, Victor.
„Im sure he didn’t have his seatbelts and was directed at me, he waved his hands and was very angry. He yelled >>F…ing Victor, f…. Victor!<< He couldn’t stop shouting that,” she recounts.
As she claims, the man didn’t speak English anymore at that point, and she yelled at him >>please, please stop<<. – „And then, the last thing I remember was his face right next to mine,” she says and adds, she had the feeling, she should have turned around and go back home, but she didn’t. – „Later I don’t remember the blow… I must have lost control over all of what was happening around. I was focused on him and I completely don’t remember hitting the barriers,” she claims.
When the car wound up in the water, the water didn’t pour inside it right away. – „I couldn’t even believe what was happening, I froze. That feeling is unspeakable. I looked at him, I said: >>And now what? Look.<< As I remember he said just one thing: >>get out<<,” says Marta Herda.
„They pulled wool over her eyes”
Miss Marta claims, that she lost conciousness in the water and she woke up on a concrete bulwark about 200 metres from the crash site. The woman started running towards the town to get help, and there she found a car of Garda. Policemen called the ambulance.
„Marta got out and alarmed everyone to help him, that he can’t swim. And now they used everything against her, that he couldn’t swim, and she knew about that,” says Ms. Katarzyna. Accodring to Mr. Mariusz, since the beginning the police acted to the disadvantage of his former roommate. – „They collected some iffy circumstantial evidence, and pulled wool over her eyes,” he says.
In Ireland there is only one penalty for premeditated murder – lifetime inprisonment. Twelve-member jury decides the case. In Marta Herda’s trial only one juror voted against convicting her ofmurder. Others were convinced by the evidence gathered during police investigation. According to the prosecution, the woman used the car as a murder weapon.
„Reading the reports from the trial, that one car-window was opened, that the handbrake had been applied 13 feet before the cliff, where they accused Ms. Marta of kning that her victim couldn’t swimwhile she could… You may draw such conclusion,” says Marcin Szulc, Polish attorney, who runs a law firm in Dublin and had followed the trial. – „In the prosecutor’s opinion this car was no different from a pistol or a baseball bat,” he explains.
The family: Marta is innocent
Marta’s immediate family comes from Poland to visit the prison in Dublin once a month. They are convinced that Marta did not commit a deliberate murde of her colleague.
„This water, storm… Noone could swim there, even the best Olympic swimmer,” thinks Monika Łyżwa, Ms. Marta’s sister. She adds that during the trial it was shown that for about 30-40 seconds from hitting the water, one could still wind the car windows open. – „We know that Csaba also got out of the car. We were confident that the jury will understand that and the only thing that Marta could be hold responsible for was vehicular manslaughter,” she says.
Ms. Monika shows the newspapers which report about the accident of Marta Herda. – „They describe her as >>Ice-Queen Killer<<,” says Monika Łyżwa. According to her, such media coverage could have an impact on the latter opinion of the jury.
One of the key pieces of evidence in the case was the testimony of Marta given immediately after the accident without an interpreter. According to the family this caused ambiguities that led to charge of murder.
As Mrs. Monika claims the accusations were started by her sister’s statement that she drove the car to the water. – „I would express myself the same way: >> I drove to the water<<. It seems that in prosecution’s understanding this implied the following: >>I drove, so I had an intention, I drove to the water because I was sick of him, because I wanted to get this over with.<<’” Mrs. Monika explains.
„I’m filled with terror”
„They told me to go and make statements to the police as fast as possible. It will be best for me if it’s straight away, so I agreed to everything, I signed everything, did everything they wanted. I wanted to help and do as much as I could,” Marta Herda recalls. – „I don’t know anything about such things. I know, I should have said that I want a lawyer,” she admits.
The Polish woman appealed against the murder conviction, therefore neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office agreed to make any statements about the case until the proceedings are completed. Victim’s brother also refused to meet our reporter. Marta Herda hopes for another trial.
„This time we surely will do everything he other way. I’m going to call witnesses, as I was previously told that I didn’t have to. And for sure I’m going to testify, because I was also told that I don’t have to,” says Ms. Marta. – „Now I’m filled with terror,” she admits.
„We approached her in the courthouse today. She says: >> Mom, whatever happens I’m sorry for everything, that you suffer because of me so much<<,” – laments girl’s mother, Teresa Szczuchniak.
They will keep fighting.
The Irish Court of Appeals finished the hearing on Thursday. It confirmed the judgement of the Court of First Instance: lifetime inprisonment. Marta Herda and her family are determined and they intend to appeal against the conviction to the Supreme Court of Ireland, and if that does not help, even to the European Court of Justice.
Translation by: www.helpformartha.org