Refugee, 85, sent for Britain's first war crimes trial

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The Independent Online
Britain's first war crimes case is to go ahead after an 85-year-old refugee was committed for trial yesterday accused of murdering three Jews in the Second World War.

Szymon Serafinowicz is charged under the 1991 War Crimes Act with the murder of three unnamed Jews in Byelorussia, now Belarus, during Nazi occupation of the former Soviet republic.

After a two-month committal hearing, Dorking magistrates ruled there was sufficient evidence to commit Mr Serafinowicz for trial at the Old Bailey. The court had heard testimony from 16 witnesses, some of whom flew in from the United States, South Africa, Siberia and Israel. Details of the proceedings cannot be reported for legal reasons.

At yesterday's hearing one of the original charges was dropped and Peter Badge, the chief metropolitan magistrate, said there was a case to answer on a new charge, that Mr Serafinowicz had murdered an unnamed Jew at Dolmatowsz- czyzna, in Byelorussia.

Mr Serafinowicz, a retired carpenter, looked blank as the charges were read out and appeared not to register the presence of his sons Kazimierz, 49, and Szymon, 52, in court.

He settled in Britain after the war with his Polish-born wife, who died some years ago. In July 1995 he was arrested at his home in Banstead, Surrey, and charged, after a two-year inquiry by Scotland Yard's war crimes unit. The 1991 Act meant the Crown Prosecution Service could bring charges even though the alleged offences happened abroad.

Nicholas Bowers, for the defence, said his client was "delighted" one of the charges had been dropped. "He is looking forward to establishing his innocence before a jury," he said.

The first charge against Mr Serafinowicz alleges he murdered an unknown Jew in Mir, Byelorussia, in November 1941; the second that he murdered an unknown Jew at Krymiczne, Byelorussia, between December 1941 and March 1942; and the third that he murdered an unknown Jew at Dolmatowszczyzna between November 1941 and March 1942.

Mr Serafinowicz was bailed to appear at the Old Bailey next month for a pre-trial hearing.