Sister of murdered care assistant: 'I heard the last breath of Magda'

Polish woman tells court of the moment her telephone call was interrupted by the shots that killed her sister

Emily Dugan@emilydugan
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:14
Magda Pniewska (above) was killed in New Cross last year. Her sister, Elzbieta Luby, gave evidence yesterday at the Old Bailey
Magda Pniewska (above) was killed in New Cross last year. Her sister, Elzbieta Luby, gave evidence yesterday at the Old Bailey

The sister of a care assistant who was shot in south London, has described hearing her sister's final gasps for breath during a mobile phone call. Almost instantly after being caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between two teenagers, the woman died.

The victim, Magda Pniewska, 26, was having a phone conversation with her elder sister, Elzbieta Luby, when a bullet struck her in the head as she walked through a car park in New Cross in October last year. She was killed instantly.

Elzbieta Luby told the Old Bailey yesterday that their light-hearted conversation had turned to tragedy within seconds as she listened helplessly to her sister's dying moments.

Ms Pniewska had been carrying home gifts for her dog given to her by a grateful elderly resident at the the Bupa-run Manley Court nursing home in New Cross where she was employed.

Just seconds before the first shot was fired, Ms Pniewska joked to her sister that she was laden down "like a camel". The conversation came to an abrupt end as Mrs Luby heard the first gunshots ricocheting.

"I heard shots. I heard several shots – three or four. There was a short break between the third and fourth shot, like a moment's hesitation," she said.

On hearing the shots over the phone, Mrs Luby panicked. "What's happening, what is going on, who's shooting?" she asked. Her sister simply replied: "Wait a minute, Ella," and then the fourth shot came.

Mrs Luby described to the Old Bailey how she heard her sister fall to the ground after the shot hit her: "I heard the last breath of Magda," she said through an interpreter. "I heard when she fell down, I heard when all the bags fell down."

After a minute's silence, she heard two more shots, then hung up the phone and attempted to call her sister back. As panic set in, she then dialled the mobile of Ms Pniewska's boyfriend, Radoslaw Lipka, as well as the couple's landline. But there was no reply.

Two 17-year-old youths, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are said to have been shooting across a housing estate car park at each other with 9mm handguns, just as Ms Pniewska made her way home. She came between was described as a "Wild West" shoot out to settle a score over money.

The prosecution says that a masked gunman fired the fatal shot from the top of the car park stairwell of Stunell House on 2 October.

It is alleged he was exchanging shots with the youth now on trial, who is described as firing from behind a parked car with "a big grin on his face". The 17-year-old, who jurors have been told was unlikely to have fired the fatal bullet, denies the charges of murder, attempted murder and having a gun to endanger life. However, the prosecution says that does not absolve him from criminal responsibility.

The teenager from Streatham, south London, denied being at the scene when he was arrested four days after the shooting. But later he told police that he was on the estate and did have a gun which he fired in to the air as a warning to the other shooter.

He has since admitted to the charge of possession of an illegal firearm. A second teenager was arrested but has not been charged.

The trial continues.

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