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    Life sentence for accused of killing pregnant wife. Woman recorded her own death

    The Court of Appeal in Katowice has imposed a life sentence on Piotr Sz., accused of killing his wife in 2019. The woman was six months pregnant. The verdict is final.

    The Court of Appeal changed the verdict of the Bielsko district court, which in October sentenced the man to 25 years in prison. This verdict was appealed by all parties in the trial. The prosecution demanded life imprisonment for the defendant, and the attorney of the auxiliary prosecutors wanted the verdict to be set aside, and the case returned to the first instance. The defence considered the non-final sentence to be too harsh.

     

    Neither the defendant nor his defence counsel was present at the announcement of the verdict, but relatives of murdered Izabela – the auxiliary prosecutors in the trial – were. When the presiding judge, Wojciech Paluch, read out the sentence, they started to cry.

     

    “The victim recorded her own death.”

     

    The murder occurred in the autumn of 2019. Piotr Sz., at the time an officer of the Bielsko-Biała Municipal Police, had not been living in harmony with his wife for some time. When the woman was already pregnant, he started having an affair with a work colleague. The marriage began to break down. On 17 October, there was another row. During this, he strangled the woman. The murder was recorded on an audio recording. As the prosecution said, the victim “recorded her own death”.

     

    “This strangulation – which we can establish with certainty thanks to the recording that was secured – lasted 21 minutes. In the meantime, the accused (…) being convinced that the victim had already lost her vital functions, stops this action. We have a situation in which the accused already then begins to express remorse he says: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”, but when he hears that the wife is still alive, he repeats the strangling action,” described referring judge Piotr Mika.

     

    “For the first two minutes of the strangulation, the victim was still able to speak. It was multiple repetitions of words: ‘I beg, child, I beg!’” he added. Citing expert opinions, the court described Sz. as an asocial disordered person, dominant, immature, with obsessive-compulsive disorder propensity, understands the feelings of others, but does not experience these feelings himself, and has above-average intelligence.

     

    After the murder, the perpetrator wrapped the corpse in foil, took it to the Siewierz area and abandoned it in the forest. Afterwards, he went to play football and the next day went to work. He also called his mother-in-law, asking about his wife. He pretended to be concerned. He reported the woman missing. The search began. The police suspected from the start that Sz. might have committed the crime. He was detained. Shortly afterwards, a random person found the woman’s body.

     

    Investigators have charged Piotr S. with the murder with particular cruelty to his wife, who was six months pregnant – the baby also died – as well as previous physical and mental abuse of his wife. The man confessed to the murder. However, he did not accept that he had abused the woman.

     

    Why was the sentence changed?

     

    The Bielsko-Biała District Court, sitting in the first instance, found the man guilty of murder but not ‘with particular cruelty.’ It sentenced him to 25 years in prison, stipulating that he could apply for early release after 20 years. It also obliged him to pay reparations to the victim’s relatives. In the opinion of the court of the first instance, the defendant had not planed the crime, although he was the one who caused the conflict in the marriage. Anger and frustration accumulated in him. The court also did not accept that the man had previously abused the woman.

     

    When changing the verdict, the Appeal Court stated that it had been difficult to find mitigating circumstances in this case that would support a lower sentence than life imprisonment. It pointed out that while at large Sz. would continue to pose a threat. “With the established personality traits of Sz. and taking into account his behaviour during the murder, it is difficult to assume that his remorse was sincere,” the Appeal Court added.

     

    The Appeal Court agreed with the position of the court of the first instance, which acquitted the accused of abusing his wife in the period preceding the crime – it found that there was insufficient evidence for this. Instead, like the district court, it found him guilty of impersonating his wife on the internet. Contrary to the prosecution’s position, the Appeal Court also confirmed in the verdict that this was not a murder committed with particular cruelty – it found, despite the long period of violence, the perpetrator’s action was not aimed at causing additional suffering to the victim, apart from depriving her of life.

     

    Monday’s verdict is final, it can only be appealed to the Supreme Court.

     

    In a conversation with journalists, after the verdict, the District Attorney Małgorzata Moś-Brachowska, who requested that the court of the second instance impose life imprisonment on the defendant with the reservation that he could apply for a conditional, early release after 40 years, expressed her satisfaction that the Appeal Court accepted her appeal in its essential part – confirming that the sentence of the district court was flagrantly disproportionate to the act.

     

    Referring to the failure to assume that the perpetrator acted with particular cruelty, she announced that a request for a written justification would be considered in this regard and after its analysis, it would be decided whether there were grounds for revocation or not. The same applies to the Appeal Court’s finding that Sz. did not abuse his wife before the crime. Although the court did not tighten the conditions for early release, it will depend on the experts’ assessment in the future – the attorney pointed out and added that Sz. “requires isolation from society”.

     

    The auxiliary prosecutors will also want to see the written justification. “No punishment, not even the harshest one, can in any way compensate the family for the huge loss, nor reduce the suffering caused by this crime,” emphasised the attorney for the family of the murdered woman, counsellor Magdalena Zatoń.

     

     

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