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Woman accused of faking suicide of housemate 'who was murdered', court hears

Egita Jaunmaize does not dispute that another person caused her housemate’s death.

File photo
File photo
Image: RollingNews.ie

Warning: Readers may find some details in this report distressing.

A 34-YEAR-OLD Latvian woman has gone on trial accused of simulating the suicide of her housemate in Co Cavan almost four years ago.

Egita Jaunmaize, of no fixed abode, is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of a man, knowing or believing him to have murdered Antra Ozolina (49) or committed some other arrestable offence at the Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan on or about 27 or 28 June 2014.

The prosecution allege that Jaunmaize placed a blue cord around Ozolina’s neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.

Jaunmaize was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court yesterday and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC, for the defence, said his client accepts that Ozolina’s death was not caused by suicide and she does not dispute that another named person caused Ozolina’s death.

Opening the prosecution case yesterday, Patrick Gageby SC told the jury that Ozolina was a Latvian national who had been working for a number of years in a mushroom factory. He said Ozolina lived in a small house, the Old Post, in the village of Kilnaleck with Jaunmaize and a man.

Counsel said gardaí were alerted that there had been an event in Kilnaleck on 28 June and a number of people, including the accused, wanted to report this to gardaí but they did not have good English. One of the Latvian nationals who spoke good English acted as a spokesperson.

The barrister said the jury will hear that gardaí went to the Old Post, where they found the deceased in an ensuite. The upper part of Ozolina’s body was in the shower tray, her face was blue and swollen, and a nylon-type rope was around her neck.

The rope was not attached to anything when gardaí arrived and a vodka bottle was adjacent to the deceased’s body. “There was no apparent sign of a struggle, at first flush it did not look like a crime had been committed,” he added.

Suspicious

Gageby said Ozolina’s death was not deemed to be suspicious at this stage but within a short period of time this changed.

Outlining the evidence the jury will hear, Gageby said an initial autopsy was performed on Ozolina by a local pathologist who was not trained in forensic pathology.

He said the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, later detected there had been evidence of a crime. Curtis found blunt force injury to Ozolina’s head and face, and determined that her cause of death was neck compression.

Gageby said an investigation was undertaken and it was found that the rope’s function around the deceased’s neck was to give the idea that she had hanged herself and suffered asphyxia.

Counsel told the jury they will also hear that gardaí secured the assistance of an engineer who was able to show that the shower rail was the only thing that could have caused Ozolina’s death, but that it could not have supported her weight. The evidence suggested that Ozolina had not died by hanging herself, he said.

The barrister said the jury would hear that the accused was one of the first group who went to the garda station and was therefore one of the central people to the beginning, middle and end of the garda investigation.

Gageby said the accused initially told gardaí a man in question was not present on the night and he did not figure in the account. “Subsequently, as a result of careful garda investigation, it would appear the accused told garda the argument was more than verbal and that, in fact, the man was involved,” he said.

Choking

Gageby further explained to the jury that Jaunmaize ultimately told gardaí she had observed this man take Ozolina by the neck and that he choked her to death using his forearm. The man requested the accused put a rope around Ozolina’s neck with a view to making it look like suicide and not murder, Gageby said.

The barrister told the jury the issue in this case is not about whether Ozolina died lawfully or by suicide and that it will become abundantly clear Ozolina was murdered. He said the issue in the trial is if there was a reasonable excuse on the accused’s part for placing the rope around the deceased’s neck.

“It will become clear as the case moves on that the accused admitted and agreed she did this act but she was fearful for herself and her own life,” he said.

A statement by Garda Arthur O’Connor was read into evidence by Gageby yesterday afternoon. Garda O’Connor said he received a phone call on the morning of 28 June informing him that foreign nationals had reported a woman’s death in a house in Kilnaleck.

Jaunmaize, a male and a female met O’Connor outside Kilnaleck Garda Station. The female told O’Connor that Jaunmaize did not speak English but she had found her housemate dead, who had killed herself.

O’Connor made his way to a yellow terraced house with the three people and Jaunmaize let them in using her key. O’Connor went upstairs to a bedroom where he observed two “blue” feet on the floor of an ensuite bathroom.

He saw a small amount of blood in the shower tray but he could not see where it was coming from. He did not notice anything suspicious or any sign of a struggle.

He went downstairs and spoke to the accused, who told him her and Ozolina had a verbal falling out the previous night and they were the only two people in the house at the time.

At 8.40am the following day the accused said she went into Ozolina’s bedroom and found her housemate with a rope around her neck. She said it was not attached to anything and she went to get help.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last two weeks.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

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Alison O'Riordan

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