The barrister for a woman, who lives in Laois and is charged with murdering her boyfriend in Roscrea, has said the jury must acquit her if it’s reasonably possible that ‘him coming towards the knife’ had caused the fatal wound.
Caroline Biggs SC also asked the jury to consider self-defence during her closing speech on Thursday in the trial of the mother of two, who’s accused of murdering the man in their Tipperary home.
Inga Ozolina (48), originally from Latvia, but with an address at Old Court Church, Mountrath, Co Laois, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Audrius Pukas at The Malthouse, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, on November 20, 2016.
The Central Criminal Court has heard that the 40-year-old father of two died at the scene from a stab wound to his chest.
Ms Biggs said that nothing the pathologist or forensic scientist had found was inconsistent with the accused’s account. Ms Ozolina had said that she grabbed the nearest thing with which to defend herself, after her ‘violent’ boyfriend began hitting and biting her. Such fights had happened before, she said.
The barrister said that there was evidence of a fracas from her client’s injuries, Mr Pukas’s more trivial injuries and the broken glass and broken picture frames found at the scene.
Ms Biggs said that, If there was an alternative, it was for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
“There is no such proof,” she added.
She noted that her client had said a number of things in her garda interviews.
“Ultimately, you’ve to consider whether there’s a reasonable possibility that the cause of the fatal wound was him coming towards the knife, a reasonable possibility she was acting in justifiable self defence, or a reasonable possibility that she didn't have the intention to kill or cause serious injury,” she said. “On any of the three, she’s entitled to acquittal.”
She told the jury that it must look at the issue of self-defence from her client’s state of mind.
“She’s been with him for a number of years and that’s how her state of mind is formed,” she pointed out. “She gives an account of what her life was like. She says it was hell.”
She said the jury must consider whether the history of domestic abuse informed her mind at the time of the incident.
“She knew his ex-wife had been put into hospital,” she said.
She also reminded the jury of an ‘aggressive’ interaction he’d had with gardai, and of a witness, who said Mr Pukas had assaulted him in front of a child.
“That is what informed her mind,” she said. “She knows he has the capacity to assault her, to assault men and be aggressive to gardai in their uniforms…. You heard (from a neighbour) that on an occasion, she would not go into her own house, gardai were called, that he was always the aggressor. We know there are safety orders.”
She noted that the jury had heard about signs of domestic violence from a neighbour, their landlord, her doctor and her own friends. They had heard about neck injuries, black eyes, and a bitten nose.
She asked the jury to acquit the accused.
Paul Murray SC gave the closing speech on behalf of the prosecution.
He said that it would be a natural, human reaction to have sympathy for Ms Ozolina and to completely abhor and condemn the actions alleged against Mr Pukas.
“But you must put those strong emotions to one side,” he said. “Remember this, that Mr Pukas was a brother, a father of two children, a son, a good friend.”
He reminded the jury of CCTV footage that showed the couple doing their shopping in Lidl about 12 hours earlier. There were good times too, he said.
Referring to the definition of murder, he asked what the natural and probable consequences of putting the knife used into the left torso of Mr Pukas to the extent that it penetrated various bodily organs.
“Of all the knives to pick up on the night, it just happened to be the biggest knife of the lot,” he said, referring to a number of knives seized from the kitchen.
He noted that the accused had been working all day, had failed to get Mr Pukas on the phone a number of times, had come home and found that he’d had friends over and had been drinking.
“An argument starts and, yet again, she says there’s violence on his part directed towards her,” he continued. “The question has to be asked: Had she had enough at that stage?”
He said that the three knife wounds to Mr Pukas could not constitute an accident.
“This was not a situation of self-defence either,” he suggested. “Even if you pay credence to the account given by Ms Ozolina of what happened, at the end of the day, it was she who had the knife used on an unarmed, drunken man.”
He asked for a verdict of murder.
The jury had been told earlier that Ms Ozolina had arrived ‘frantic and distressed’ to a friend’s house with a bite on her nose earlier in the relationship.
Niamh Hyland told Ms Biggs that she had been friends with Ms Ozolina for the past 10 years and that they had been neighbours for part of that.
She testified that Ms Ozolina had arrived, banging at her front door, in the early hours on two occasions while living with Mr Pukas.
“There was blood on her nose and she was quite frantic,” she said of the first occasion.
“She stayed with us for a couple of hours. She was quite distressed and wanted to make sure that the house was secure,” she continued.
“There was a bite on the bridge of her nose and her nose was bloody,” she added.
She said that she arrived under similar circumstances a week or two later.
“This time she had a swollen eye,” she said.
Ms Hyland said that she had been in the home of the accused and deceased many times.
“His interactions with her were often quite aggressive,” she said.
Mr Justice Alexander Owens has now begun charging the jury of seven men and five women, who will begin deliberations later on Friday.