Pole who murdered six people 'tried to kill himself last month'

Matt Blake reports from Jersey on the troubled final weeks of the man whose knife rampage has shocked the tranquil island
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The Independent Online

As two friends enjoyed the sunshine on a quiet summer's afternoon in St Helier, their peace was shattered by a woman's scream.

They saw Izabela Rzeszowski, 30, run out of her flat as a man chased her with a knife in hand. Her father, Marek Garstki, 55, and her two children, Kinga, five, and Kacper, aged 18 months, were already dead. Her best friend, Marta De La Haye, 34, lay dying on the doorstep with her five-year-old daughter Julia, who was also murdered, nearby.

This was the scene that confronted Alex Wambua, 38, and Bryan Ogesa, 24, as they walked towards the flat in Victoria Crescent, a leafy street overlooking St Helier Bay, Jersey. Last night, as a 30-year-old male suspect remained under arrest in hospital after emergency surgery, Mr Wambua and Mr Ogesa told of the events that unfolded on Sunday evening.

"The man was running after her, screaming in Polish. Suddenly he grabbed her with his left hand and began stabbing her in the back, again and again," said Mr Wambua, a supervisor at a nearby Co-op supermarket. "She was not screaming. She had her mouth open but no noise came out."

Mr Ogesa grabbed a traffic cone to ward off the attacker as Mr Wambua shouted at the man to stop. "When I shouted 'What are you doing?' the wife came running towards me but collapsed next to her friend. Then the guy started walking back towards the front door, stabbing himself hard in the arms and chest, yelling something in Polish. He was not poking, he was really stabbing himself. That man wasn't right in the head.

"He had a crazy stare and scared me to death. I think the woman on the floor was already dead. The other woman had blood all over her. She was making noises and moving at this point. We did what we could to help her with CPR."

Mr Wambua said the man, whom he described as 5ft 8in with blond, spiky hair, then turned back towards the flat, two doors along from Mr Ogesa's.

"As he opened the front door I saw an older man with a white goatee lying on his front with a blade sticking into his back. I think he was dead," he said. I saw a blonde girl who looked very young lying beyond him. There was so much blood that I couldn't even tell what colour her clothes were."

Mr Ogesa, a patent office worker in St Helier, said: "The man closed the door and five minutes later the police arrived. I didn't see who opened the door but it must have been him because I think he was the only person left alive in the house."

Another neighbour, who gave his name only as John, said he was gardening when he heard "a blood-curdling scream". "By the time I got over there it was all over. Then a paramedic emerged from the house carrying the limp body of a little girl," he said. "I have never seen so much blood. The female paramedic was in tears. She was followed by a policewoman carrying a second lifeless child. She was weeping too."

The attacker was named locally yesterday as Damian Rzeszowski, a labourer. Friends spoke of their heartbreak at the massacre, which has shocked the 10,000-strong Polish community on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. One close friend of the couple said Mr Rzeszowski had attempted suicide a month ago after admitting that he and his wife were having relationship problems. But he said doctors at Jersey General Hospital discharged Mr Rzeszowski only a day later. "I am so angry," he added. "Damian clearly needed help. They should never have let him go."

A spokesman for the hospital refused to comment.

Standing in the shade of the tree-lined street, his eyes red with tears, the friend added: "Five weeks ago Damian seemed very down. I asked him what was wrong and he said nothing. After the overdose he told me Izabela was taking the kids on a holiday to Poland. When I asked him what I could do he said, 'Only God can help me'. He had begun drinking more than usual."

The first murder on Jersey for more than seven years has stunned the picturesque island, known for its almost negligible crime record. Jersey's Chief Minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, said: "Jersey is a very safe place and events of this terrible nature are very rare."

It is understood that Mr and Mrs Rzeszowski married in Poland around seven years ago but moved to Jersey in 2006. Neighbours said they seemed a happy family and that the children were often seen laughing as they played on tricycles and scooters in the garden outside their flat.

On 12 July Mrs Rzeszowski, a housewife originally from Bydgoszcz, in northern Poland, wrote on her Facebook page: "Few men get what they desire and few deserve what they get."

Four days earlier she wrote: "A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

A Home Office pathologist arrived from the UK yesterday and post-mortem examinations are not likely to be completed until the end of next week. Officers from Devon and Cornwall Police have also been drafted in to help the investigation into the deaths.

Leading the investigation

When Stewart Gull left Suffolk Police for a new post with the States of Jersey Police last month after a distinguished career in East Anglia, he may have expected a quiet sinecure on the Channel Islands.

Barely a month into his new role as head of crime for the Channel Island's 240-strong police force, Detective Superintendent Gull is dealing with the worst single murder case in Jersey's recent history. The 48-year-old officer is particularly well-qualified to deal with the case. In 2006, he headed the search for a serial killer behind the deaths of five prostitutes in Ipswich, one of the most high-profile murder hunts in recent years.

With his unflappable manner and measured tones, Mr Gull became the public face of the police investigation as national and international media descended on the Suffolk town. Steven Wright, a forklift-truck driver, was arrested in December 2006 and later convicted of all five murders.

Mr Gull joined the Suffolk force as a trainee constable straight from school and spent more than 30 years in the force before his move to Jersey.

'One of the safest places in the western world'

With its thriving tourist trade and lucrative offshore financial sector, Jersey has long relied on its reputation as a wealthy haven far removed from the criminal and societal ills of the British mainland.

Mark Bowron, the chief officer of the States of Jersey Police, went out of his way yesterday to underline that the murders of six people had taken place on an island that is "one of the safest places in the Western world". Given that the last killing among its 90,000-strong population took place in 2004 and that crime reached a ten-year low this year, he was in many respects correct.

But that is not to say that Jersey has not produced its own share of disturbing crimes in recent years. In 2008, it became the focus of one of the largest child abuse investigation in British history following allegations of systematic physical and sexual assault at the Haut de la Garenne care home.

A multi-million pound investigation led to the excavation of underground vaults where victims alleged they were abused, but a murder inquiry was abandoned when no bodies were found.

In the first five months of 2011, there were 1,600 crimes recorded in Jersey, an 11 per cent drop compared with the same period last year and nearly a third less than in 2004, according to police figures. But last year, offences against the person accounted for 28 per cent of all offences, compared with 23 per cent in London.