A man has appeared in court in Northern Ireland accused of battering his uncle to death in a drunken argument over rent.
Ballymena Magistrates Court heard that while 36-year-old Polish man Marek Sinko was initially arrested and questioned about the death of 53-year-old Eugeniusz Sinko last October, it was only when police recently received a pathology report stating the cause of death was due to a grade three “traumatic brain injury” the decision was taken to lay a murder charge against him.
Standing handcuffed in the dock, Sinko, from the Townhill Road in Rasharkin, confirmed that he understood the single charge against him, namely that of the murder of his uncle Eugeniusz Sinko on 22 October last year.
The body of 53-year-old Mr Sinko, a labourer who been living in the area for a number of years, was found in the front yard of the home the uncle and nephew shared on the Townhill Road.
In court, on Thursday May 17, Detective Inspector McCartney gave evidence that he believed he could connect Sinko to the murder and described how the victim had suffered 63 injuries.
He described how brain injuries were graded one to three, three being the most serious with injuries in that category being caused by such events as a fall from a great height, a serious road traffic collision or serious assault.
“Its quite obvious that the victim here was in receipt of a serious assault,” claimed the inspector.
He told the court Marek Sinko claimed to have struck his uncle five times in what he himself admitted was a “brutal” fight over rent money when the pair had been drinking heavily and further claimed that his uncle had gone outside to wash himself after the fight while he went to bed.
“That’s been disproved by the receipt of a pathology report which states that the victim would have been unconscious within minutes of the assault if not sooner,” said the senior detective.
He added that police also had evidence of “some cleaning of the scene” in the blood spattered kitchen and that the body of Mr Sinko “may well have been dragged from the kitchen to outside the house.”
Inspector McCartney said while the victim had “63 noted injuries to his body,” the defendant only had “minor” injuries to his hands, telling the court that his claims of striking his uncle five times “is certainly not the picture we are getting from the post mortem.
He told the court that as well as admitting the assault was “brutal,” the defendant had also admitted that “at no time did his uncle attempt to fight back.”
Re-interviewed on Wednesday, May 16, Inspector McCartney said Marek Sinko “has not changed his stance whatsoever” and maintains he struck the victim five times that he can recall.
The officer said police were objecting to the alleged killer being freed amid fears that he would flee the jurisdiction but during an exchange with District Judge Nigel Broderick, he agreed the defendant had a clear criminal record and had been in police bail since October with no issues or breaches at all.
Defence Solicitor Stewart Ballantine said the defendant himself “acknowledges that this is a tragic case for this man and his family” and that “he had never any intention of hurting his uncle.”
He argued that Sinko was a suitable candidate for bail given his clear record, good work record and the fact that he had been on police bail since October, “with a full history of compliance.”
“Right from the outset he gave a clear account of what occurred during the altercation,” said the lawyer, “that his uncle went out the front door, he retired to bed for the night, got up in the morning and went outside and found unfortunately, his uncle's remains lying with the tap running.”
Mr Ballantine claimed Sinko “immediately sought assistance” and had tried performing CPR himself“ but unfortunately that was not successful.”
Despite police objections to Marek Sinko being freed on bail and conceding that it was “somewhat unusual to grant bail for a murder charge in the Magistrates Court,” Judge Broderick said he would free the defendant given all that he had heard of the background and bail history.
Initially, he said he would free Sinko on his own bail of £750 with a surety in the same amount and imposed other conditions including a curfew, a prohibition on alcohol, that Sinko was to be tagged, have no contact with named witnesses and to report to police three times a week.
Sinko was however remanded into custody after the PPS said they intended to appeal the judge’s decision.
While that appeal will be heard in the High Court, Sinko will appear again in the Magistrates Court on 14 June.