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Marta Herda found guilty of murdering colleague who couldn't swim by driving him into Arklow harbour

Published 28/07/2016

Marta Herda told detectives they were constantly arguing about their relationship and that they had been arguing in the car when she drove into the water
Marta Herda told detectives they were constantly arguing about their relationship and that they had been arguing in the car when she drove into the water

Polish waitress Marta Herda has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering the man by driving him into a deep harbour, where he drowned.

The 29-year-old was a good swimmer and knew that her passenger could not swim, when she drove her Volkswagen Passat through the crash barriers at South Quay, Arklow shortly before 6am on March 26, 2013.

She escaped through the driver’s window at the harbour but her colleague’s body was found on a nearby beach later that day. A post-mortem exam found that 31-year-old Csaba Orsos died from drowning and not from injuries related to the crash.

The trial heard that the handbrake had been applied before the car entered the water and that the only open window was the driver’s.

Ms Herda of Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, Co Wicklow was charged with murdering the Hungarian.

She pleaded not guilty and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court earlier this month.

The jury heard that Mr Orsos was in love with her. Herda told gardai that she didn’t feel the same way, and that he had spent two years following her, phoning her and sending her messages.

On the day of his drowning, she showed them a love letter he had sent her the previous year. She told detectives they were constantly arguing about their relationship and that they had been arguing in the car when she drove into the water.

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A security guard had heard the car coming at speed from the town. He said that it had seemed to stop momentarily before picking up again. He heard nothing else for three or four minutes. He then saw and heard a woman screaming as she ran towards the town.

Gardai then found Herda soaking wet and frothing at the mouth a short time later. She told them that there was someone in the water and that they had to help.

The search for her passenger began as she was taken to hospital. She told a paramedic: ‘He shouldn’t have been there. I drove the car into the water,’. He testified that she was concerned and kept repeating the name, Csaba.

She later told a garda that he was dead because of his love for her. She said it was 24 hours a day and that she couldn’t take it anymore.

“People think this funny but not for me,” she said on the day of the drowning. “The second year it no longer funny.”

She said that he had got into her car and wanted her to drive to the beach, but that he began screaming at her.

She said she remembered hitting the accelerator.

“I feel I have enough of this,” she said. “I drive to water. I cannot take this anymore.”

She said she recalled being under the water.

“I screamed his name. I saw ladder and got out,” she said.

She was arrested on suspicion of murder more than four months later and denied in garda interviews that she had driven into the water deliberately. She was asked why she had told a garda on the day of the incident: “When I drove into the water, I wanted this all to stop.”

She replied that she did want it all to stop and for him to leave her alone. She said he had been screaming in the car and she’d wanted him to stop.

She said she was hoping to save him if she had seen him in the water. She said she had to fight for her own life under the water.

“I would never want to hurt anyone or even to destroy my car,” she said.

CCTV footage showed her driving to the part of Arklow where Mr Orsos lived around 5.30am, and a witness heard the driver having a heated argument on the phone. Call records showed that she rang the deceased three times around that time and a postman found his front door wide open later that morning.

Her interviewer put it to her that she had ‘lured him out of his house’.

“This is horrible,” she responded. “Everyone is looking at this story from the last few seconds.”

She said it had been going on for two years.

“Yes, I was stressed and nervous,” she said, when asked if the car was going fast.

“I didn’t want to drive there. It was an accident,” she said, explaining that they had been arguing in the car.

“I couldn’t understand what he was saying and then, bang,” she said.

She agreed that he was a nuisance and a pest. She said she had told him she could never be with someone like him because he would lock her somewhere.

Herda turned away from the jury and wept silently as a video was played of the deceased celebrating his last birthday with her and his family in his home.

His brother could be heard telling her that she was his present. She could be heard replying that she had come to warn the deceased that his manager knew he had lied when he had rung in sick.

In his closing speech, the prosecutor said her car was used ‘as an instrument of murder’.

Her barrister said that it would be suicide if she had driven into the harbour deliberately and that there was evidence that she wasn’t suicidal.

The jury of eight men and four women began deliberating on Monday morning.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told them that they had three possible verdicts open to them: guilty of murder, acquittal or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The jury returned to court at 11.36 on Thursday morning, having spent eight hours and 11 minutes deliberating. They had found her guilty of murder by a majority of 11 to one.

Herda showed no emotion as the registrar read out the verdict, but became emotional when the court rose for a number of minutes before sentencing. She was comforted by her legal team and a number of friends.

Herda wept uncontrollably as Mr Justice McCarthy signalled for her to stand while he imposed the mandatory life sentence. She was then led away from her friends by prison officers.

The eight men and four women of the jury returned to court to hear the victim impact statement of Csaba Orsos’ brother read to the court.

Garda Catherine O’Rourke, the family liaison officer, entered the witness box to deliver the statement written by Zoltan Sandro.

“When I had to identify my dead brother, my heart teared apart (broke) because of the pain,” he said. “I remember every moment of it, it will stay with me forever. He was so cold. I would have never thought that this way I have to say goodbye to him. Sometimes because of the pain in my chest I want to scream.”

He said that, he had since dreamt that his brother was walking towards him on the beach, dead, waking him up from his dream, cold and shaking.

“But next day again I dreamed with him as he was walking towards me pale without t-shirt,” he explained. “I woke up.”

He said that, after travelling back to Hungary, he kept thinking that it wasn’t true and he had to remind himself that he had seen him ‘in the bag’.

“Trying to go asleep or just to watch TV I just looked at the ceiling, having the feeling that the ceiling is coming down, knowing that he is in the coffin,” he recalled. “I had no air, I had to get outside.”

He said that his son was three at the time and repeatedly asked him why he cried.

“I am not the same man who I was,” he said.

“We went through a very stressful time,” he explained. “When I had to tell my family what happened I couldn’t tell my mother. I rung my older brother. I had to scream ‘Yes it’s true, I saw it’.”

He said that his brother couldn’t tell her either. He told her that her son had been knocked to the rocks but the media spread the news fast and he had to tell her the truth.

“She has heart problems, that’s why we didn’t want to tell her,” he explained. “It’s a miracle that she is still alive.”

He explained that his son had loved his uncle a lot and he didn’t tell him he had died for two years.

“Csaba was his best friend,” he said.

He used to give him Kinder eggs, toys and clothes.

“He adored Csaba, all the time playing hide and seek with him,” he continued. “When flying back he asked why Csaba isn’t coming? What could I say, with the coffin in another plane. I had to lie. I told him he went to work on a cruise ship, that’s why he has no time.”

He said that the whole family, including the deceased, had gone to Dublin Zoo just weeks before his death. He said that everybody enjoyed it, especially his son, Milan, who used to say they’d go there again with his uncle.

“They can’t see each other anymore,” he noted.

He said that his wife was five months pregnant when his brother had died and that he was very happy when his wife had asked him to be Godfather to the new baby.

"But because he is dead he can’t see my daughter, Maya, he can’t play with her, they would have adored each other,” he said. “I tell a lot of stories about Csaba to Maya. When my wife took Maya out to the cemetery, Maya climbed up the head stone kissing Csaba’s picture.”

He said the Brooklodge Hotel had kept his position open for a year in case he wanted to return to work. The trial heard that this was also where his brother and Herda worked.

“I didn’t have the strength,” he admitted. “Occasionally I thought about it, ok I return, but I realised I could not work with a smile anymore there, everything would remind me of Csaba.”

He said it was no good without him. He had taught him the language and everything about catering. He said his plan to work in Ireland for a long time had been shattered.

“While at home, I had no work and my daughter was just born, but we didn’t return,” he said. “I collected rubbish in a train station just to have something to spend on food.”

He thanked God that he got a stable job after a couple of months.

He said that he and his siblings rarely talked about their brother.

“Everybody is suffering in silence,” he said.

“My kids are the ones giving me life and strength to survive this horrible thing,” he explained, adding that they were also giving strength to his mother and siblings.

“I wish that the pain that we have, nobody would feel, there is nothing more,” he said.

He said that he was afraid of water and that he got sick and found it scary when it entered his mind that his brother had drowned. He said he had gone for a walk along the river in Dublin a couple of days ago, but had to cross the road because he was afraid.

“I can’t swim and I regret it for all my life because while the emergency services were looking for Csaba I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I couldn’t jump in to help him.”

He said that he sometimes couldn’t look in the mirror.

“He just wanted to be happy,” he concluded. “Family, kids, things that everybody wants, but he will never have a chance for all this because he died.”

Irish Independent

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