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Woman found guilty of impeding murder investigation by staging housemate's suicide

The killer was never charged because he sustained a traumatic brain injury months after the murder.

Image: Sebastian Duda via Shutterstock

Updated at 6pm

A MOTHER OF one has been found guilty of staging her housemate’s suicide in order to impede the prosecution of her boyfriend for strangling her.

The neo-nazi killer was never charged because his brain function is limited due to a traumatic injury sustained months later while fleeing after a car he had hijacked crashed. He is currently living in a care facility, where he is spoon fed.

However, his 34-year-old former partner was on trial at the Central Criminal Court, charged with impeding his apprehension or prosecution, knowing or believing him to have murdered Antra Ozolina, aged 49, or committed some other arrestable offence.

Egita Jaunmaize, of no fixed abode, admitted placing a blue cord around her fellow Latvian’s neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.

However, she pleaded not guilty to carrying out the offence, without reasonable excuse, at their home at The Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan on or around 27 or 28 June 2014. The mushroom picker told gardaí that she was in fear for her life and acting on her boyfriend’s orders at the time, having just seen him strangle Ozolina.

Trial evidence

The court heard that the accused reported her housemate and colleague’s apparent suicide to the authorities on 28 June.

Gardaí found the deceased in her bathroom with a blue rope around her neck. A bible and an almost empty vodka bottle were found nearby, and there were no immediate signs of a struggle. The gardaí suspected suicide, as did the local pathologist, who carried out the coroner’s autopsy.

However, the gardaí still carried out enquiries. The deceased was planning a month-long holiday in Latvia to visit her daughter, who described her as happy and healthy. Her friends said that she was not the type to take her own life.

A forensic pathologist was called in to carry out a second autopsy, which revealed blunt force trauma other than the neck compression that had killed her.

An engineer also found that she could not have used either the shower rail or the towel rail in her bathroom for suicide. It became clear that the rope’s function was to cover up a crime.

The accused first told gardaí that she had argued with the deceased the night before, but that she had been well when they had gone to bed and that there was nobody else in the house. She had found her housemate dead on waking that morning, she said.

She eventually told gardaí that her boyfriend had strangled her flatmate using his arm in front of her. She said she had tried to push him off his victim, but that he had punched her in the stomach.

She said he had grabbed her by the throat when she threatened to go to gardaí, and that she was afraid he would kill her too if she did so.

She said he had then asked her to put a rope around his victim’s neck to make it look like a suicide. She said she was “forced” to do it.

She said that she eventually agreed to the killer’s plan to tell gardaí that his victim had killed herself.

She kept to this line during a number of voluntary statements and in her first interview as a suspect, even suggesting that her housemate had given herself the other injuries found at autopsy.

The statements of other witnesses were then put to her, including one from a friend whom the deceased had rung that night to say she was in fear and was going to ring the gardaí.

The accused then agreed that she was under the duress of her boyfriend, whom she described as a ‘skinhead neo-nazi’.

She was released from custody, without accepting a garda offer of accommodation through St Vincent de Paul, and was seen in the killer’s company a few days later.

Boyfriend’s background

The court heard that this boyfriend, who is now 31, has convictions for racist, neo-nazi offences in his native Latvia and has a large swastika tattooed on his chest.

He had been in custody until six months before he moved to Ireland. He had breached his release conditions by moving here, and a European arrest warrant had been issued for him.

The trial heard that had also been arrested after the killing, but denied the allegations put to him in an interview. He was described in court as “brazen”, telling gardaí that if he had killed someone, he would hardly be telling them.

He had openly admitted to choking a woman, who had given a statement as part of the murder investigation. He said that she had accused him of being a ‘fag’, and he suggested that going for her throat was what any man would do.

He was also released from custody at that time.

The jury heard that on 29 October 2014, he and the accused woman’s half-brother staked out a businesswoman in Longford and held her at knifepoint.

They bundled her into the back of a car, where Ozolina’s killer sat with his leg pressed up against her neck, while the other hijacker drove. The gardaí pursued the car, while the men threatened the woman and demanded money.

The hijacked car crashed and the alleged killer got out to run away. He was struck by an oncoming vehicle with very considerable force, causing him obvious brain and physical damage.

He was in hospital for a number of months, before being transferred to a nursing home. His brain function is now limited and he has lost the use of three limbs.

He was being peg fed until recently but is now being spoon fed, and is hoisted to and from his bed on a daily basis. A garda told the court that he’s not in a position to be charged.

The accused went to the gardaí in Longford after this crash, telling them: “I know now I can’t help him, I can’t change him. I’m tired trying to help him.”

The prosecution reminded the jury that the reason she gave gardaí for having lied initially was a fear of this boyfriend being sent back to the authorities in Latvia.

However, the defence called a psychiatrist, who said she would have found it difficult to defy him; she had been the victim of a violent crime in childhood, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result, and feared her boyfriend would kill her too.

The doctor said that she had the “potential to be re-victimised, getting into abusive relationships again and again”. He said she would have limited ability to defy such a “dominating, threatening and psychological and physically abusive man”.

Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, said his client was “guilty of having been in a relationship with a bad man and was guilty of going back to the bad man afterwards”. However, he asked the jurors what they would have done in that situation on the night.

He asked the jury to consider both duress and reasonable excuse as defences that would lead to an acquittal for his client.

However, following three hours and 47 minutes of deliberations, the seven men and five women returned with a guilty verdict by a majority of 11 to one.

Justice Patrick McCarthy thanked them for their service and remanded the accused in custody for sentencing on 26 February.

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Natasha Reid

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