Catherine Wells-Burr murderers jailed for life as judge criticises Polish trio's revenge, jealousy and greed

They stood to secure a £123,000 life insurance payout and a half-share of a £137,000 two-bedroom house

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The Independent Online

Two men and a woman from Poland were jailed for life today for the murder of Somerset business analyst Catherine Wells-Burr.

Rafal Nowak, 31, Anna Lagwinowicz, 32, and her uncle Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, 38, were convicted at Bristol Crown Court on Friday of murdering Miss Wells-Burr, 23.

Trial judge Mrs Justice Sharp imposed mandatory life sentences with minimum jail terms of 32 years on the three.

Bath Spa University graduate Miss Wells-Burr died as a result of a plot hatched out of revenge, jealousy and greed by cheating factory worker Nowak, his jealous secret lover Lagwinowicz and her doting uncle Dmytryszyn, the court heard.

With her death, the three defendants were in line for a £123,000 life insurance payout and a half-share of a £137,000 two-bedroom house in Chard, Somerset.

They planned the murder during months of secret meetings and phone calls between Nowak and Lagwinowicz, with Miss Wells-Burr oblivious to her part in the so-called love triangle.

Nowak and Lagwinowicz, who had been in a two-year relationship, met up for sex and to plot the case on up to 87 occasions and exchanged hundreds of phone calls on pre-paid SIM cards.

Nowak smothered his sleeping girlfriend with a pillow, before Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn removed her body from the house and drove it in her red Ford Focus to a countryside beauty spot at Ashill.

They placed Miss Wells-Burr in the driver's seat and set fire to the car at 6am - 20 minutes after Nowak had clocked into work at Numatic International - providing him with what he thought was the perfect alibi.

The defendants spent months leaving a false trail for detectives, creating fake profiles for Miss Wells-Burr on adult websites and sending texts to her phone from a supposed mystery lover.

Nowak, of Willow Way, Chard; Lagwinowicz, of South Street, Taunton; and Dmytryszyn, of Holway Avenue, Taunton, denied having any part in the death but were found guilty following a seven-week trial.

During the trial, heavily-tattooed Nowak wept in the witness box as he insisted he played no part in the death of his "true love".

But the cheating factory worker, who continued to have sex with Lagwinowicz while dating Miss Wells-Burr, failed to provide the court with any other explanation for how his girlfriend could have died.

The father of one, who has a wife and teenage son in his native Poland, told the jury: "Everyone blames me for something that I never done."

The court heard that Nowak showed no emotion when police discovered Miss Wells-Burr's body in her burnt-out car on the morning of September 12.

Lagwinowicz, who frequently shook her head and laughed in the dock when Nowak suggested she had been responsible for the killing, refused to go into the witness box.

Dmytryszyn also did not give evidence in his defence during the trial.

Nowak, Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn were each jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years.

Mrs Justice Sharp told them the murder was "a dreadful, pitiless crime committed in cold blood in gross breach of trust".

None of the three showed any emotion as the sentence was passed.

Mrs Justice Sharp told them: "You murdered a fine young woman with everything to live for for money.

"Rafal Nowak, the images of you leading Catherine by the hand the evening before her death buying items for what you knew was her last meal are utterly chilling. Your only emotions have been for yourself.

"Anna Lagwinowicz, your conduct has been deceitful, manipulative and cruel. You played your full part in this wicked crime.

"So did you Tadevsz Dmytryszyn.

"This was a murder with the expectation of gain. There were significant aggravating factors and no mitigation."

Miss Wells-Burr's family - who gave heartbreaking victim impact statements to the court - wept as the sentences were passed.

Mrs Justice Sharp described the murder as "all about the money".

The judge said: "Many tears have been shed in this court but the only tears that anyone should shed are for Catherine Wells-Burr and her family - mother Jayne, father Philip and sister Leanne.

"For many weeks now the evidence against these three defendants, Rafal Nowak, Anna Lagwinowicz and Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, has been presented, tested and scrutinised with conspicuous care. Now that they have been convicted of Catherine's murder our first thoughts and my first words will be about her.

"Catherine was 23 years old when she was murdered. She was a beloved daughter and sister, beautiful, bright and hard working. Her family had every reason and still have every reason to be proud of her.

"On the 12th of September last year her badly burned remains were found in her car at Ashill - a cold-blooded murder by these defendants which had been carefully planned over a considerable period of time."

The judge described how Miss Wells-Burr met Nowak as she worked on the production line at the Numatic factory in her summer holiday in 2010.

"I suspect even then her family had their reservations. But because they are decent and kind people and because they loved their daughter they opened their hearts and home and treated the man she loved as a son.

"What they could never have known was that behind the mask Nowak presented to them was a man without scruples or decency."

The judge said Nowak and Miss Wells-Burr bought a house together and took out life insurance, but within a matter of weeks Nowak was secretly seeing his ex-partner Lagwinowicz. Nowak and Lagwinowicz then began plotting the murder together.

"It was all about the money," the judge said.

"Nowak and Catherine had no ties, they were not married, there were no children. The murder of Catherine was motivated by money, selfishness and greed and, in the case of Lagwinowicz, jealous and a desire for revenge."

Mrs Justice Sharp read heartbreaking statements from Miss Wells-Burr's mother Jayne, 46, and sister Leanne, 21.

Ms Wells-Burr, who also works in the Numatics factory, wept in the public gallery as her statement was read to the court.

It said: "Catherine was a considerate, loving, sincere, generous, loyal, caring, exceptional and amazing girl. She had a bright promising future ahead of her with so much potential. As her parents, Phil and I were so very proud of the young woman she had become.

"Catherine, Leanne, Phil and I are a close family, we loved spending time together. Our world has fallen apart. The pain weighs heavily in our hearts. Some days it is unbearable. We are shells of the people we used to be and heartbroken.

"The manner of Catherine's death, the cruel, calculating wicked murder and the hatred shown to her will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

"I didn't get the chance to say goodbye or to tell her I loved her or for Catherine to say, 'I love you Mummy'."

Leanne, 21, described Miss Wells-Burr as "my best friend".

Her statement read: "She was so special to mum, dad and me. To think we have to try to carry on living without her is so hard. Catherine did nothing but love him."

Additional reporting by PA