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Jury begins deliberating in trial of man accused of murdering former flatmate by stabbing him 62 times

Michal Kurek was discovered in Ballyboughal in August 2017.

A JURY HAS begun deliberating in the trial of a man accused of murdering his former flatmate by stabbing him 62 times before dumping his body in the gateway of a country lane in north county Dublin.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt concluded his charge to the jurors today in the Central Criminal Court of Sebastian Barczuk (32), with an address at Briarwood Lawn, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering his homeless friend Michal Kurek (33) at a place unknown within the State between August 3 and 4, 2017.

Mr Kurek, a homeless man with addiction difficulties, was found lying face down in the gateway of a country lane in Ballyboughal with 62 stab wounds to his body, including 25 knife wounds to his back on the morning of August 4. A Nokia 105 mobile phone was located in the right-hand pocket of the deceased’s jeans and the handset was still powered on.

Evidence has been given that a cyclist discovered the deceased’s body lying next to a gateway in the Grange area of Ballyboughal on the morning of August 4. Former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis has testified that the Polish national died from “multiple stab wounds and with a contributory factor of blunt-force trauma to the head and chest”.

Addressing the jury this morning, Mr Justice Hunt said three principles of law underline criminal trials and these are the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge said it was for the jury to consider whether or not the prosecution had displaced the presumption of innocence in the trial. “The battleground in this case is the meaning and significance of the evidence and what conclusions it allows you to draw,” he remarked.

Referring to the burden of proof, Mr Justice Hunt said the fact that Mr Barczuk spoke to gardai pre-arrest and post-arrest brought about no shift in the burden of proof. He also pointed out that one cannot draw any inference that the accused did not give evidence in his trial.

The judge told the jury panel that the decision they make in this case is “good for all time” and they have to be sure but not certain before they make it. The prosecution must have removed all possibilities consistent with Mr Barczuk’s innocence and if there is reasonable possibility consistent with the accused’s innocence then there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he outlined.

Mr Justice Hunt said there was no direct evidence and eyewitness evidence in the case and therefore this had to be supplied by inference as opposed to relying on direct witnesses.

Evidence has been given in the trial that the lower amount of DNA in a mixed profile taken from Mr Kurek’s Nokia phone matched the DNA of the accused Mr Barczuk. Furthermore, the jury has heard that the accused man’s phone made a data connection at a cell site near Ballyboughal in north county Dublin at 00.53 and 00.55 on the morning Mr Kurek’s body was discovered, while the deceased’s phone also used a cell site at Ballyboughal at 00.47 and 00.52 on the same morning.

The jury has also viewed a montage of CCTV footage of a blue Fiat Punto travelling from the Clonsilla Inn at 9.18pm on August 3, through Lispopple Cross in Co Dublin at 00.19 and past Drishogue in Oldtown, Co Dublin at 00.56 on the morning of August 4. Ms Ewa Raczka testified that on August 2, 2017 – two days before the discovery of Mr Kurek’s body – she sold Mr Barczuk a Fiat Punto.

The judge warned the jury of the possible infirmities of the evidence in circumstantial cases and asked the jury to exercise care when approaching it and not to speculate.

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The jury can return two verdicts in relation to the murder charge against Mr Barczuk, namely; guilty of murder or not guilty.

Mr Justice Hunt told the 12 jurors that they had a “difficult task” ahead of them and asked them to be unanimous in their verdict. The jurors began deliberating in an empty courtroom rather than the smaller jury room around 2.30pm today.

In his closing speech, prosecution counsel Lorcan Staines SC with Carl Hanahoe BL said the defendant was “a proven and admitted liar” who was “kite flying” when he was initially interviewed by detectives before becoming a suspect in the case. Mr Staines asked the jurors to be very careful before they accepted the defendant’s narrative and “self-serving assertions”, which he claimed were used to “throw gardaí off the scent”.

Defence counsel Dominic McGinn SC with Keith Spencer BL submitted in his closing address that the State had presented “less than half a story” and could not say when, where, why or how Mr Kurek was killed. Mr McGinn said the prosecution was unable to point to a motive between the accused man and deceased, which he described as one of the biggest mysteries in the case as both were “like brothers” to each other.

Mr McGinn remarked that it was an “extraordinary leap” to find that Mr Baczuk, who had no history of animosity with his close friend Mr Kurek, would suddenly stab him 62 times and asked the jury to find his client not guilty of murder.

About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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