Catherine Wells-Burr death: Polish trio found guilty of murder

Rafal Nowak, 31, killed Catherine Wells-Burr as she slept at the couple's new home in Chard

Claire Hayhurst,Rod Minchin
Friday 07 June 2013 17:50
Catherine Wells-Burr
Catherine Wells-Burr

A cheating Polish factory worker has been found guilty of murdering his British girlfriend in Somerset after hatching a plot with his jealous secret lover and her uncle.

Rafal Nowak, 31, killed Catherine Wells-Burr as she slept at the couple's new home in Chard.

His secret lover Anna Lagwinowicz, 32, joined her devoted uncle, Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, 38, in dumping Miss Wells-Burr's body in her car at a nearby roadside and setting fire to it.

A jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted Nowak, Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn of the 23-year-old business analyst's murder in September 2012. They will be sentenced on Monday.

The Bath Spa University graduate died as a result of a plot driven by revenge, jealousy and greed.

With her death the three defendants would secure a £123,000 life insurance payout and a half share of a £137,000 two-bedroom house.

The murder was the result of 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.

Burly Nowak smothered a sleeping Miss Wells-Burr 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 the university graduate in the driver's seat and set fire to the car at 6am - 20 minutes after Nowak had clocked into work - providing him with what he thought was the perfect alibi.

The defendants had 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 during their trial.

But the jury, who sat through seven weeks of harrowing evidence, found the twisted trio guilty of murder having seen through their web of lies.

During the trial, a 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 how callous Nowak showed no emotion at all when police discovered Miss Wells-Burr's body in her burnt out car on the morning of September 12.

Her mother, Jayne Wells-Burr, told the jury that he "didn't mention Catherine at all" - instead asking for a steak dinner after his initial release from police custody.

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

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

Speaking after the verdicts, Miss Wells-Burr's parents called for tougher immigration controls.

Phil and Jayne Wells-Burr, who are no longer together, said Nowak - who has a conviction for assaulting his wife in Poland - would not have been allowed into the UK had this country's immigration rules been as strict as the those in the US.

They blamed the European Union and said the UK needed to "wake up a bit" and toughen up.

Mrs Wells-Burr, 46, said: "There is no screening of people coming into this country.

"We didn't know that Rafal had had an assault charge on him while back in Poland.

"I kind of think this Government needs to wake up a bit."

Mr Wells-Burr, 48, said: "That is what we need in this country now."

Mrs Wells-Burr said that Nowak was reluctant to commit to a family holiday in Florida.

"He said he couldn't raise the money to go, but it's because he has a criminal record that we didn't know about, because you can't go into that country, like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, but because we are part of the EU it's ok," she said.

Members of Miss Wells-Burr's family wept in court as the verdicts were announced. The three murderers showed no emotion.

Nowak was convicted by a unanimous jury, while Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn were found guilty by majority verdicts.

The jury spent 12 hours and 31 minutes debating the case, following seven weeks of harrowing evidence.

Mrs Justice Sharp told the jury: "In view of the lateness of the hour the defendants may sit, I shall not proceed to sentence today.

"Members of the jury, let me thank you for your service in this case.

"You have been attentive, punctual and fulfilled your important public duty in serving as the jury in this distressing case.

"We are grateful to you."

Mrs Justice Sharp will sentence the defendants on Monday at 10am.

Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Simon Crisp, from Avon and Somerset police, who led the investigation said: "This was a wicked crime committed against a bright and innocent young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.

"Nowak, Lagwinowocz and Dmytryszyn took both Catherine's and her family's future away from them on the night they carried out this calculated killing. They then tried to cover their tracks and mislead us in a bid to get away with what they had done.

"Murder is a terrible crime but what makes this worse is the intricate planning that took place while Nowak pretended to care about Catherine - playing the doting boyfriend while plotting to take her life for a few thousand pounds.

"Their plan unravelled despite their best attempts to mislead us and today they have been found guilty of Catherine's murder.

"I would like to pay tribute to Catherine's family who have remained strong and dignified throughout. Their support to the investigate team has been invaluable.

"While the verdict/sentence will never bring Catherine back I hope it goes some way in providing some closure knowing that justice has been done.

"Finally I'd like to thank our first rate prosecution team led by the CPS here in Bristol who co-ordinated a complicated and challenging case through to today's final conclusion."

Senior Crown prosecutor Melanie Ringland added: "In the days following the murder the police asked for the assistance and guidance of the Crown Prosecution Service. That assistance came from the Southwest Complex Casework Unit based in Bristol.

"We have worked closely with Avon and Somerset Police throughout this extremely complex investigation. This investigation was meticulous. By piecing together numerous pieces of evidence the prosecution team were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Nowak, Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn were guilty of this ruthless murder motivated by greed."

Speaking outside court, Miss Wells-Burr's mother Jayne said: "Leanne, Phil and I are here today because of the cruel, callous, wicked, evil and sickening act of murder against our beautiful Catherine.

"Catherine was an inspirational, amazing, caring, kind, intelligent young woman, who had her whole life ahead of her with so much potential after gaining her First Class Bachelor of Honours Degree in Business Management at Bath Spa University. We were all very proud of her and the person she had become.

"The hatred shown to her has truly shocked us, especially the hatred shown by Rafal Nowak, a man who was meant to have loved her.

"His betrayal to our family has devastated us. We treated him like a son and family member.

"Anna Lagwinowicz has been devious, manipulative and calculating, her actions to create such sickening false profiles of Catherine demonstrate this and as a result these evil people have made us question our judge of character and trust in people - we trust no-one.

"Our world as we knew it has fallen apart. Our lives used to be fun, full of laughter and love. We can see no future without our beautiful Catherine. We are heartbroken. No prison sentence will ever be enough. In this country life is not life and we feel it should be.

"We are the ones facing the life sentence without her.

"We would like to thank Detective Chief Inspector Simon Crisp and everyone who worked on Operation Fascia, especially those who spent many hours going through the technical data which formed a large part of the evidence in this case and in particular our Family Liaison Officers, Hilary Bolland and Chris Clegg, who have been with us throughout.

"Richard Smith QC and the prosecution team, Audrey Carson of Victim Support - Homicide Support Services, a special lady who has deeply touched our hearts.

"This service and Audrey in particular, has helped us in our darkest and most difficult of times and has inspired us to launch The Catherine Wells-Burr Foundation, we hope this will be a lasting legacy to her.

"Our aim in life now is to raise awareness and raise as much money as possible for other families of murder victims."


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