Victim's lover wins police payout
Published 01/06/2012 | 11:32
The boyfriend of a woman found dead in a lake six years ago has won £125,000 libel damages over a police claim that he probably killed her.
In a highly unusual case, Amilton Bento, 31, sued Bedfordshire Police over a July 2009 press release.
It followed the January 2006 discovery of 26-year-old Kamila Garsztka in Priory Lake, Bedford, six weeks after Bento reported her missing.
In July 2007, he was convicted of her murder, but this was quashed by the Court of Appeal in February 2009 on the basis of the "unsatisfactory nature" of evidence that Ms Garsztka had been carrying a bag shortly before she died - the bag found at Bento's flat on the night she was last seen.
In July 2009, shortly before a retrial, the case was discontinued and Bento was formally acquitted.
Two days later, Bedfordshire Police issued the release, which Bento said meant he was guilty of murder and wrongly escaped justice as a result of confusion in regard to expert evidence.
The police accept that the release meant that there was sufficient evidence to justify proceeding with the retrial in the reasonable expectation that Bento would be convicted.
They maintained that Bento probably killed Ms Garsztka and it was either murder or manslaughter, and said they had a duty to publish the release in relation to providing information to the public and to defend their conduct in investigating her death.
But Mr Justice Bean, who heard the case at London's High Court without a jury, rejected their defences of justification and qualified privilege.
Mr Bento, who now lives in Portugal, was not in court for the ruling.