THE family of Chard murder victim Catherine Wells-Burr are having to summon their energy to fight another battle – seven months after the trial finished.
Rafal Nowak, Anna Lagwinowicz and Tadevsz Dmytryszyn were found guilty of killing Catherine and were each handed a 32-year jail term by Mrs Justice Sharp in June after a six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.
A jury found that the trio conspired to kill the 23-year-old graduate at her home in Willow Way in September 2012 and took her body to a secluded spot in Ashill, where they set fire to the vehicle.
But it has emerged that Catherine’s boyfriend Nowak and Lagwinowicz, his former lover, have applied to serve their sentences in Poland, which could see their jail terms reduced to 25 years each.
Catherine’s mother Jayne, father Philip and sister Leanne were appalled to discover the news through a colleague of Philip’s brother two weekends ago.
Mrs Wells-Burr said: “When we heard about it we went and hunted for the information ourselves. I found it on a Polish website and after translating it, saw that a lawyer in Poland – Andrew Vulpecula – had said Rafal could apply for parole after just 25 years.
“We called our probation liaison officer, who was absolutely horrified. She knew nothing about it either but she checked the information and confirmed that both Rafal and Anna had applied to do this right from sentencing.
“I think it’s disgusting that we have not been involved in any stage of what they are doing. Nobody has told us anything. It feels like we are not even worth telling about it.”
Mr Wells-Burr added: “They could have been in Poland already and we wouldn’t have known anything about it.
“We are devastated and disgusted that they are trying to go home and get a shorter sentence. Why are they being rewarded for going back there?
"The way we look at it is that if you commit a crime in a country you should see the punishment through there, too, and then be deported.”
The Ministry of Justice this week said the decision on whether to approve the transfer would be made on behalf of the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling but declined to comment further on the case.
The family has written to a number of key figures – David Laws MP, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, Mr Grayling, Justice Minister Jeremy Wright, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens – in a bid to stop the transfer.
David Laws replied immediately to say he shared their concerns and would raise the matter urgently with the Justice Department.
He told the News: “This was a shocking and appalling murder, as the judge made absolutely clear. I am wholly opposed to any moves which would risk shortening the sentences by even a single day.
“I have written to the Justice Secretary alerting him to this risk and strongly suggesting that we should seek to block any moves which could lead to shorter sentences being served.”
The Wells-Burr family is determined to do whatever they can to stop Nowak and Lagwinowicz returning to Poland to serve their jail terms.
Mrs Wells-Burr said: “We are not just doing this for us – we are thinking about the wider picture. These are very dangerous people. We are hoping to stop it happening.
“The judge said they should serve 32 years minimum and that’s what we want – that’s what we believe in. Although we understand nothing has been finalised, we don’t feel it should be up for consideration at all.
“While they are serving their sentence here we are involved – for example we would be able to read our witness impact statements to them face-to-face when they applied for parole in what should be 32 years. But we will have no part in the process if they serve their sentences in Poland.
“It makes a mockery of our justice system, which served us so well. We feel let down by our Government.
“So many people have done so much good and then this – it’s just horrible and I don’t understand it.
"Their combined sentences were nearly 100 years, now it could be down to 75 – is that what Catherine’s life was worth?”
Mr Wells-Burr added: “It’s like we are secondclass citizens in our own country. We shouldn’t even be fighting this.
“We put everything into the court case and got some closure from that, but now less than a year later we are fighting again. It’s not right.
“We hope we will have the public’s backing – our priority is that their sentences aren’t reduced.”
Mrs Wells-Burr said: “We have tried to rebuild our lives and every day is a struggle as it is, but this is just awful.
“We just hope it’s not too late for us, but if it is and they go to Poland to serve their sentences we will keep fighting, so at least Catherine’s case changes the law forever. Something has got to be put in place.
“Catherine’s a British citizen, so they should be punished in this country for killing her. She’s not here anymore, so we have to be her voice.”
- Anyone who feels strongly about the matter and would like to help the Wells-Burr family fight their corner can contact David Laws MP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to him at 5 Church Street, Yeovil, BA20 1HB.