Jersey husband guilty of six killings after knife attack on family

 

A man who carried out a frenzied knife attack on six people, including his wife and two young children, was found guilty of manslaughter today.

Damian Rzeszowski armed himself with kitchen knives and stabbed his father-in-law Marek Gartska, 56, wife Izabela Rzeszowska, 30, daughter Kinga, five, and two-year-old son Kacper, at their Jersey home on August 14 last year.

The 31-year-old Polish builder also turned on his wife's friend, Marta De La Haye, 34, and her five-year-old daughter Julia, who were at the house for a barbecue.

Rzeszowski was convicted of six counts of manslaughter following a trial at the Royal Court in St Helier, Jersey.

The court heard that Rzeszowski's marriage had been under strain after his wife confessed to a two-month affair with another man and threatened to commit suicide.

Rzeszowski admitted the killings but his defence argued that he was suffering moderate to severe depression, causing an onset of psychotic symptoms which diminished his responsibility.

Wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, Rzeszowski showed no emotion in the dock as the presiding judge, Sir Michael Birt, read out the verdicts that two jurats - similar to magistrates in the UK - had reached.

Throughout the trial, the defendant had constantly stared down at the floor, not looking up at any time.

No members of the victims' families were in court, but the public gallery was full of curious onlookers.

Judge Birt, who is the Bailiff of Jersey, said Rzeszowski would be sentenced for manslaughter on October 29.

He also thanked counsel and the interpreter who assisted Rzeszowski throughout the trial for their hard work.

After the attacks, Rzeszowski told psychiatrists that, during the trip back from Poland, he began to hear voices coming from the car radio.

The voices spoke in Polish, telling him he was a "bad man" and mentioning the names of his children.

Later that day a row broke out between Rzeszowski and his wife after he left the children on their own in the apartment to go for a drive.

He claimed that at this point the voices increased, warning him that his wife and Marta were going to be raped and killed, and his children put on the barbecue.

He went out for a cigarette and the voices said "Kill, kill", although he told a psychiatrist that he did not interpret them as a command.

Julian Gollop, for the defence, claimed that was the last Rzeszowski could remember until he woke up in a hospital bed after surgery for a collapsed lung.

But the prosecution argued that he had been exacting "extreme revenge" on his wife by killing her and everyone she loved.

Mr Sharp said Rzeszowski had initially told doctors he had some memories of the attacks and that he had not been hearing voices.

The killings are believed to have begun an hour and three- quarters after Rzeszowski's row with his wife.

Mr Gartska was the first victim to be attacked, according to the prosecution, and was stabbed with such force that his spinal cord was severed and a kitchen knife left lodged in his body.

The children were attacked in the apartment's lounge, with Kacper thought to have been playing with toy cars or painting when he was first stabbed repeatedly in the chest.

Rzeszowski later returned and knifed his son in the back.

Kacper's older sister, Kinga, was stabbed a total of 16 times, and ended up on the floor of the lounge, not far from her brother.

Kinga's friend Julia suffered seven wounds to her chest and a further nine to her back in the course of two separate attacks.

It is not clear where Mrs De La Haye was attacked, but her DNA was found on the front door and she collapsed outside in the street.

Mrs Rzeszowska is believed to have been attacked in the flat's lounge or hallway, but was able to run through the flat and into the courtyard.

As she tried to escape, she climbed back in through a bathroom window and made a "desperate attempt" to call the police.

She dialled 997 - the Polish emergency services' number - before making it into the street, where she was knifed in front of horrified neighbours.

Rzeszowski then made his way back indoors and stabbed himself several times, causing a collapsed lung.

In a statement read by a family liaison officer outside the court, Izabela Rzeszowska and Marek Gartska's family said they had been "devastated by an enormous tragedy".

The statement by Izabela's mother Jolanta Gartska, brother Krzysztof Gartska and sister-in-law Agnieszka Gartska, said: "Our hearts were broken when the hearts of six wonderful people stopped beating, people who should still be with us today, however they are already with God.

"This tragedy is even more painful as we have lost our children and grandchildren.

"Knowing that we will never be able to play with Kinga and Julia again or cuddle little Kacper and we can never talk to Izabela, Marta or Marek again makes the pain unbearable."

Craig De La Haye, Marta's husband and Julia's father, issued a statement which read: "Every day is a struggle to continue and yet it still feels like yesterday that it happened.

"My beautiful wife Marta and wonderful daughter Julia, friends Kinga, Kacper, Iza and Marek, you will never be forgotten.

"Not a day goes past when I don't think about my family.

"I hope that one day I will see you again, until then, I love you."

Reading a statement outside the court, Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, who acted as senior investigating officer on the case for States of Jersey Police, said today's verdicts had been the culmination of a year's work for the force.

He said: "The deaths of these six people, including three young children, have left many families devastated.

"First and foremost our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.

"We can only imagine the grief of the families, who lost loved ones in such brutal circumstances.

"But today is not a day for vindication or celebration, but sad reflection.

"The events of August 14 2011 have left a very sad, indelible mark on Jersey's history."

PA

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