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Man who tried to bludgeon sleeping wife to death with hammer loses bid to have jail term cut

A jury found him guilty following a trial at the Central Criminal Court in April 2014.

Image: Laura Hutton via RollingNews.ie

A HUSBAND WHO had attempted to bludgeon his sleeping wife to death with a lump hammer on her birthday has lost his bid to have his 15-year sentence reduced.

Andrzej Benko (50) had pleaded not guilty to attempting to murder Joanna Benko at their house at Ladyswell Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin on 5 July 2010.

A jury found him guilty following a trial at the Central Criminal Court in April 2014 and he was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy.

He later appealed the sentence on the grounds that his cooperation with gardaí following his arrest entitled him to a shorter term.

However, the Court of Appeal has rejected his appeal against the severity of his sentence.

In a written judgement delivered today, Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh stated that “there was no error in principle in the ultimate sentence of 15 years the sentencing judge arrived at”.

Ms Justice Ní Raifeartaigh, sitting with Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, also noted that the case had presented several “alarming features”.

She said Benko had taken “a hammer to a sleeping woman, his wife and mother of his child, while she was in her bed in the family home”.

Mrs Benko, the judge continued, had been left with lifelong serious debilitating injuries as a result of the attack and would “never lead an independent life or be able to care for her own child”.

“A headline sentence of life imprisonment or one of 20 years would not have been inappropriate if the appellant did not present with the mitigating factors that he did,” she added.

Benko has previously lost an appeal against his conviction.

Appeal evidence

Last October, the Court of Appeal was told the sentence handed down to Benko by Mr Justice McCarthy had been “too long and disproportionate”.

Although Dean Kelly SC, for Benko, conceded the injuries inflicted by his client were horrific, he said the sentencing judge had given insufficient regard to mitigating factors and Benko’s personal circumstances when imposing the 15-year term.

Kelly said his client had been “at the end of his tether with his drug-addicted wife” after finding drugs in his car and had been concerned about his toddler son’s welfare when he attacked her with the hammer as she slept.

When he was arrested, Kelly said Benko told gardaí that he deserved to go to jail for what he had done; while a psychological assessment later indicated Benko was a at low-risk of re-offending.

The trial judge, counsel continued, appeared not to take into account his client’s co-operation with gardaí after his arrest.

Dominic McGinn SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the fact that proceedings in this case were still ongoing 11 years after the attack and seven years after the conviction indicated Benko has never shown any remorse for his actions.

“Mrs Benko was vulnerable, effectively defenceless and was attacked by the one person she was entitled to place an enormous amount of trust in; her husband,” McGinn said.

The defendant’s not guilty plea was of “enormous significance”, the prosecution counsel noted, and “as a result (Benko) cannot be afforded any degree of credit in sentencing”.

Trial evidence

During the trial, the jury was told Benko had admitted striking his wife’s head at least three times.

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Mrs Benko has been confined to a wheelchair most of the time as a result of her injuries, the Central Criminal Court heard.

She has communication difficulties, will require full-time care for the rest of her life and is also no longer able to look after her son.

The court was told the couple had been having marital problems, with Benko telling gardaí that his wife had been taking and dealing drugs and spending all his money.

Despite their difficulties, Benko went out and bought her 10 red roses and flowers on the morning of her 32nd birthday, and was planning to take her out to dinner that evening.

However, he said she was in a deep sleep and didn’t wake when he tried to talk to her on his return. He said he was disappointed.

He saw a lump hammer while looking for a vase for the flowers and thought about hitting her with it. Then, instead of bringing her the roses, he carried the hammer upstairs and hit her with it three times as she lay sleeping.

After the assault, Benko got into his car and drove the short journey to Blanchardstown Garda Station, calling the emergency services on the way.

A recording of the emergency call was played in court.

“The problem is that probably I killed my wife and now I’m on my way to you to be jailed,” he said. “Ring an ambulance. Maybe you can save her because I hit her by hammer in head.”

Benko later told gardaí he had intended to kill his wife that morning.

He said his wife’s drug taking had made his and their three-year-old son’s life hell, adding that the toddler had found a bag of her ecstasy tablets.

About the author:

Peter Doyle

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