Pole jailed for 17 years for landlord murder

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The Independent Online

A Polish man who stabbed his landlord 83 times in a "brutal murder" after he refused to pay his rent arrears in full was jailed for a minimum of 17 years today.

Michal Kalinowski, 22, attacked Peter Berkley, 43, with such force that one wound penetrated his victim's skull.



He continued to stab his victim with a 8in (20cm) kitchen knife as he tried to escape out of the front door of the flat in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and shouted in vain "Help me, help me".



Kalinowski dragged his body outside and dumped it in bushes in the garden as he covered it in bin bags and leaves.



He then pocketed £200 he had given Mr Berkley in rent a day earlier and went to a supermarket to buy alcohol with the blood-stained notes.



The Pole later moved his victim's car to a nearby industrial estate, kept the car keys and then fled to Scotland, where he was eventually arrested.



A jury at Preston Crown Court yesterday convicted him of the murder on November 6 last year.



The defendant admitted killing Mr Berkley but argued he acted in self-defence.



The court heard that Mr Berkley and his family ran a rental property business in and around Liverpool, with one property, Abbeystead in Skelmersdale, split into flats where Kalinowski and other Poles and Eastern Europeans lived while working in local factories.



Mr Berkley worked tirelessly in supporting homeless people in Lancashire and Merseyside through his business. He would often allow those living in his accommodation to pay off arrears by carrying out odd jobs on his properties.



Sentencing Kalinowski to life, Mr Justice King said: "That the murder was a brutal murder cannot be disputed.



"The attack on Mr Berkley by you was a sustained one.



"It started in the living room and extended into the hallway in which it seemed Mr Berkley tried to escape out of the front door. You prevented that escape.



"Notwithstanding that, Mr Berkley struggled at the door and shouted 'Help me, help me', you continued to stab him in the back until he fell to the floor and then until he could move no more.



"I have no doubt you had intended to kill him.



"The mental and physical suffering that Mr Berkley underwent prior to his death must have been significant."



Victim impact statements from Mr Berkley's mother, Margaret, and partner, Mandy, were handed into the judge.



Addressing Kalinowski, he added: "Mr Berkley was, in any view, a wholly good and decent, caring, generous person. He was your landlord. He was a person who had been forever helpful to his tenants, including yourself.



"No words of mine can express the grief and the extent of loss you have caused to his family by your actions."



Kalinowski had arrived in the UK to join his family and find work.



By the time of the murder, he had been out of work for three months and owed £600 in rent arrears.



On November 5, Kalinowski handed over £200 of the arrears with an arrangement to pay Mr Berkley the balance the next day but instead brutally murdered him.



Mr Justice King said Kalinowski's previous good character, lack of pre-meditation and, to a limited extent, his misguided belief that he acted in self-defence were mitigating factors.



However, he said those factors were outweighed by the nature of the "callous" attack and the fact that he tried to conceal Mr Berkley's body.



Outside court, Mr Berkley's father, also called Peter, said: "I would like to thank the police, Mr Brown, the prosecution barrister, the expert witnesses and the Polish witnesses who spoke up for Peter against one of their own countrymen. I would like to pay thanks to Mr Justice King who summed up the case in a non-biased manner.



"Peter's death has destroyed his long-standing partner, Mandy, his mother, Margaret, and me. It has also badly affected his three brothers, John, David and Daniel.



"Peter will be sadly missed by all the family, as well as the homeless people of Liverpool who he spent so much time helping.



"Peter will be missed by all those who knew him - our golden light has gone forever."



Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hulme, from Lancashire Constabulary's Major Investigation Team, said: "Peter Berkley was a kind and generous man who did not deserve to die at the hands of Kalinowski and I am satisfied that he will now be spending a very long time behind bars.



"Today brings to an end what has been an incredibly difficult period of time for Peter's family and I hope they can now begin to rebuild their lives. I would like to commend them for the dignity that they have shown throughout this investigation and the trial."