Murder trial hears homeless man was stabbed more than 60 times

Sebastian Barczuk has pleaded not guilty to murdering Polish national Michal Kurek
Murder trial hears homeless man was stabbed more than 60 times

Lorcan Staines SC, for the State, told the Central Criminal Court jury that this was a circumstantial case. File photo

A homeless man with addiction difficulties was found lying face down in the gateway of a country lane in north Co. Dublin with over 60 stab wounds to his body, a prosecution barrister has told a murder trial.

Lorcan Staines SC, for the State, also told the Central Criminal Court jury today that this was a circumstantial case and ultimately the question for them was "who did it" and not whether the deceased was murdered or not.

Sebastian Barczuk (aged 32), with an address at Briarwood Lawn, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Polish national Michal Kurek (aged 33) at a place unknown within the State between August 3 and 4, 2017.

Opening the prosecution’s case this morning, Mr Staines said the jurors will hear technical evidence as this was a technical case. "There will not be very much civilian evidence," he added. 

It is much more heavily built on technical evidence and can become much more difficult to follow.

Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Staines said there will be evidence from the witness box, by video-link, from maps and photographs as well as telephone evidence.

Outlining the facts of the case, the barrister said the deceased, Mr Kurek, was a Polish national and a homeless man, who had "addiction difficulties" and was living in Ireland for many years by the time of his death. The accused, Mr Barczuk, was a Polish national and had been living in Ireland for more than 10 years at the time, he continued.

The prosecution barrister went on to tell the court that the two men had met when they were delivering leaflets together in 2011. They ultimately became good friends and had both previously lived together at two different addresses, he said.

Outlining the circumstances of the deceased’s death, Mr Staines said Mr Kurek's body was found in the gateway at the side of a country lane in Ballyboughal on August 4, 2017. 

There was no sign of life and he was lying face down in blood-stained clothes, he explained, adding that he had suffered more than 60 stab wounds and there was blunt force trauma to his head. There were multiple stab wounds on his upper limbs, which could be regarded as defensive type injuries, he continued.

Mr Staines also indicated to the jury that they could consider this case as having two parts. "The first part falls upon me to prove Mr Kurek was murdered and the second half falls on me to prove that Mr Barczuk was the person who murdered him," he said.

The lawyer told the court that the deceased died by being stabbed and stabbing somebody more than 60 times demonstrates an intention to kill. He said the prosecution's case will mainly deal with the second issue of who did this act to the deceased. 

"Mr Kurek was murdered and ultimately the question for you is who did it and not whether the deceased was murdered or not," he emphasised.

Mr Staines further stated that the prosecution cannot say where or why Mr Kurek was murdered. The murder was not caught on CCTV footage and a murder weapon was never recovered. 

"You won't hear evidence of a confession so that type of direct evidence is absent. The case relies on circumstantial evidence," he said.

Mobile phone evidence

The court will also hear evidence, the lawyer said, that a mobile phone with a SIM card was found in the front right hand side of the deceased's jeans pocket. The phone number belonging to this phone was on the Vodafone network and gardaí obtained the deceased's phone records from the previous fortnight, he said. 

Mr Staines explained that mobile phone technology works by way of cell sites and phones ping off these masts through which the technology is routed.

Mr Staines said one of the phone contacts in Mr Kurek's phone was a number associated with his friend Mr Barczuk, which was not unusual as they had lived together previously.

Counsel said the first activity on Mr Kurek's phone was at 11.20am on August 3 and it had utilised cell sites around the Clonsilla and Blanchardstown area that day. The phones attributed to Mr Kurek and Mr Barczuk were in contact throughout that day and the deceased had called the accused man for four seconds at 1.02pm, he said. 

Mr Kurek then texted Mr Barczuk at 4.15pm and Mr Barczuk called Mr Kurek at 4.30pm. There was no further interaction between the pair until Mr Barczuk called Mr Kurek at 8.38pm, he noted, adding that the accused was using a cell site in Ongar and Mr Kurek was using one in Clonsilla. 

At 9.13pm, Mr Barczuk called Mr Kurek again for one minute and four seconds. At 9.39pm, Mr Barczuk called Mr Kurek using a cell site in Clonsilla. 

The final interaction between the two men was at 9.45pm when the deceased texted the accused using a site in Hartstown in Dublin 15, said the barrister.

Mr Staines said the prosecution invited the jury to draw an inference that the two men were not together up to 9.45pm on August 3 and explained that Mr Kurek's phone was inactive for a three-hour period from that point on.

Counsel said there were two final pieces of interaction on Mr Kurek's phone prior to his body being found. The first was at 00.47 and the second at 00.52, he said, adding that the cell site used was in Ballyboughal, slightly to the south of where the deceased's body was found and it was the only time in this two-week period that this cell site had been used on the deceased's phone. 

However, gardaí obtained 34 days of data in relation to the accused's man phone and found that his phone had also used a cell site in Ballyboughal at 00.53, he said. 

"The phone evidence is circumstantial evidence and ultimately it boils down to your tolerance for coincidence and whether coincidence placed upon coincidence would be an affront to common sense," highlighted Mr Staines.

Furthermore, Mr Staines said that the only two calls discovered on the deceased's phone log were from 00.47 and 00.52. 

"None of the calls between the accused and the deceased were there. There was a text message sent by the deceased to the accused at 9.45pm and that message was not on the deceased's phone. It will be a matter for you to decide what weight to attach to this," he concluded.

Discovery of deceased's body

Giving evidence this afternoon, Michael Madigan told prosecuting counsel Carl Hanahoe BL that he was cycling by a quiet country road called the Grange in Ballyboughal on the morning of August 4 when he noticed out of the corner of his eye a "colour" in the ditch. The witness said he cycled about 10 yards as he initially thought someone had fallen in the ditch.

Mr Madigan said the man's body was a metre in from the road side and his jeans were half-way down, exposing his underpants. The witness said he called gardaí around 11am that morning and told them he had found a dead body. 

Mr Madigan said gardaí asked him if he was sure the man was dead as there had been reports of "drunks" walking around the area. "I pushed his shoulder and it was very obvious he was dead," he said.

Under cross-examination, Mr Madigan agreed with defence counsel Dominic McGinn SC that the colour of the body was very clear to him as the deceased had been wearing checkered underpants. The witness told Mr McGinn that the man's body was not hidden but it wasn't directly visible from the road.

Garda evidence

Garda Ross Rowan testified that he arrived at the scene in Ballyboughal, where his attention was brought to the body of a male lying on the ground in a gap leading into a field. The witness said the man's eyes were open and there was blood on his head and hands. 

"There were puncture marks in several places through his clothing." he added. Gda Rowan said he removed a black canvas wallet, a medical services card in the name of Michal Kurek and a public services card from the right-hand side pocket of the deceased's jeans. 

Amongst the items inside the wallet were two passport photos and some white powder, he said.

Garda Ronan Lawlor, attached to the ballistics section of An Garda Siochana, testified that he removed a Nokia mobile phone from the right-hand pocket of the deceased's jeans.

Sergeant Michael Ryan said he was made aware that a Nokia 105 mobile phone had been retrieved from the deceased's pocket and the handset was still powered on. He said he noticed little markings on the screen which looked like dried blood.

The trial continues tomorrow before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last between three and four weeks.

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