A Polish man who came to Ireland to find a better life instead met a tragic death, his brother said on Tuesday after his killer was found guilty of murder.
Krzystof Grzegorski (22), was found guilty today of murdering fellow Polish man Bogdan Michalkiewicz (41), at the victim’s home in Westside Apartments, Letterkenny, Co Donegal on May 13th 2013.
Grzegorski had pleaded guilty to manslaughter but the prosecution rejected the plea.
The jury came to their unanimous decision after a little over five hours.
Bogdan’s brother Tomasz, who has sat through every day of the three-week trial, wrote a victim impact statement that was read to the court by Garda Siobhan McGowan.
It said: “My only family left is my sister and mother back in Poland. My only family in Ireland was Bogdan, who came here with me in 2005 to look for a better life than we could get in Poland, but instead of that he met a tragic death.”
Trial judge Justice Patrick McCarthy sentenced Grzegorski to the mandatory term of life imprisonment before prison officers led the convicted man from court.
The sentence was backdated to May 26th 2014 when Grzegorski was first taken into custody.
Evidence in trial
In his trial summary prosecuting counsel Alex Owens SC said that the evidence showed that Krzystof Grzegorski went to Bogdan's flat to retrieve a mobile phone that had been left there some days earlier. An argument broke out but Grzegorski told gardai during interviews in 2014 that he couldn't remember what sparked the vicious attack.
Bogdan suffered 46 wounds to the head and face, including stab wounds and injuries that pathologist Dr Alison Armour said were consistent with punching, kicking or striking with a blunt object. Grzegorski cut his throat and stabbed him another 17 times in the abdomen. He stamped on his chest, with enough force to leave the imprint of his shoes.
At the scene gardai found three knives and the leg of a coffee table that the prosecution said the killer used to bludgeon and stab his victim. Mr Owens said that Grzegorski also dropped a television, a heavy, old-style cathode ray tube, on his victim's head. Dr Armour found nine stab wounds to the back of Bogdan's tongue. She said that she had never seen such injuries in her 28 years as a pathologist and could not explain how the killer inflicted them.
She discovered defensive injuries to his hands, arms and shins and said she believed Bogdan endured pain and suffering before death.
She added that the damage to his skull, forehead and the bones of his face had caused "severe disruption and disfigurement".
The trial also heard that Grzegorski was drinking heavily at the time of the killing. Det Garda Alfie McHale said that gardai in Letterkenny had gotten to know Grzegorski as a problem drinker aged 14. By the time he was 16 he had a conviction for being drunk in public and a danger to himself or others. He was 19 when he murdered Bogdan.
Four times over that weekend Grzegorski was caught on CCTV stealing vodka from supermarkets in Letterkenny. The last occasion was soon after he left Bogdan's apartment having already carried out the fatal attack. Security guards at Dunnes Stores saw him steal the bottle and called gardai. Grzegorski was arrested and spent the next two days in garda custody. After his release he moved to England where he worked for a period. When he heard that another man had been arrested for Bogdan's killing he decided to come back and confess to his part in Bogdan's death.
Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC described the attack on Bogdan as "heinous, egregious and grotesque". Mr Bowman said his client's behaviour at the time of the killing and the extreme violence of the attack were irrational and illogical. He said the evidence showed that his client was in a "fog of intoxication" and did not know what he was doing when he attacked Bogdan.
Acquittal of co-accused
A second man, Dariusz Weckowicz (51), was acquitted of Bogdan's murder by the direction of the trial judge Justice Patrick McCarthy. Mr Weckowicz was seen on CCTV with Grzegorski in Letterkenny on the day of the killing, and blood spatter on his clothes placed him at the scene when Bogdan was killed. His defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC said that the evidence showed nothing more than that he was present at the time, but not that he took part in the attack. He suggested that his client was "passed out" on the sofa. Justice McCarthy ruled that the evidence could not lead to a guilty verdict and directed that he be acquitted.
The trial had earlier heard from Bogdan's housemate Adam Kycwaik, who confronted Mr Weckowicz days after his friend's body had been found.
He said: "I asked him whether he was there and he said he was there. I asked if someone else was with him and he said 'yes'."
He said Mr Weckowicz told him that he was so drunk he couldn't stop the attack on Bogdan. "He was swearing that he did not touch Bogdan. He was swearing on his knees."
Bogdan Michalkiewicz arrived in Ireland from Poland in 2005 to find work, but arthritis left him needing a crutch to walk. He received disability payments and was often unable to leave home due to ill-health. His brother Tomasz and friends would bring him food and help him with day-to-day things.
Tomasz told the trial that as Bogdan's health faded he drank more and more. He would spend his social welfare money on vodka, relying on other people to go to off-licences and bring drink to him.
He said he always refused to bring alcohol to his brother but he knew there were others in the Polish community who did.
On the day of his death, Bogdan phoned several people, including his brother, looking for someone to bring him a bottle.
Mr Owens said during his summary of the trial that a bottle was delivered to Bogdan's house that afternoon, but that Grzegorski, having already killed Bogdan, drank it himself.