Man jailed for 15 years for attempting to kill wife with hammer

Andrzej Benko (42) had admitted hitting Joanna Benko’s head with lump hammer

 Andrzej Benko has been jailed for 15 years at the  Central Criminal Court for attempting to kill his wife.  Photograph: Collins Courts

Andrzej Benko has been jailed for 15 years at the Central Criminal Court for attempting to kill his wife. Photograph: Collins Courts

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 16:37

A father of one has been jailed for 15 years for trying to kill his wife by hitting her over her head with a hammer on her birthday while she slept.

Andrzej Benko (42), of Ladyswell Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin, had admitted hitting Joanna Benko’s head with a lump hammer at least three times. However, he had pleaded not guilty to her attempted murder at that address on July 5th, 2010.

Last month the jury took under three hours to reach a unanimous verdict of guilty.

Ms Benko is confined to a wheelchair most of the time as a result of her injuries, the Central Criminal Court heard.

Now 35, she also has communication difficulties, will depend on full-time care for the rest of her life and is no longer able to look after her son.

Today, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy handed down a 15-year sentence saying he accepted Benko was deeply remorseful but had not pleaded guilty to the offence he was convicted of.

He also noted a psychological report before the court stated there was no concern for future criminality.

The judge said he was relying on two statements of the family about the consequences of the crime for them.

“The long-term consequences in the case are of the utmost seriousness,” he said.

“It seems to me there is no evidence of criminality in the background,” he added. Nonetheless the offence fell into the most serious category, but sentencing is not a precise science, he told the court.

Ms Benko and members of her family were in court when the verdict was read out.

On Monday, Benko had wept while he addressed the court to apologise to his wife and her family, who were present for the hearing.

“I want to apologise to my wife and child and also her family and I’m so sorry and I never was looking for reason.

“I know nobody has right to hurt anybody and I understand how strong my wife is traumatised and her family,” he said.

Det Garda Patrick Traynor told Mr Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that Benko had no previous convictions.

Benko arrived at Blanchardstown Garda station on July 5th, 2010, and said he had killed his wife.

He phoned emergency services and gave sufficient information for emergency services to attend to her.

On arrival they found ms Benko had sustained significant injuries to her head, the court heard.

She was brought to Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and transferred to Beaumont Hospital.

There were at least three injuries to her head which affected her mental function and fundamentally changed her life.

She has improved her mobility but is still unable to care for herself or her child.

The court heard the couple had been having marital problems, with Benko telling gardaí his wife had been taking and dealing drugs and spending all his money.

Despite their difficulties, Benko went out and bought her 10 red roses and flowers on the morning of her 32nd birthday, and was planning to take her out to dinner that evening.

However, he said she was in a deep sleep and didn’t wake when he tried to talk to her on his return. He said he was disappointed.

He saw a lump hammer while looking for a vase for the flowers and thought about hitting her with it. Then, instead of bringing her the roses, he carried the hammer upstairs and hit her with it three times as she lay sleeping.

After the assault, Benko got into his car and drove the short journey to Blanchardstown Garda station, calling the emergency services on the way.

A recording of the emergency call was played in court.

“The problem is that probably I killed my wife and now I’m on my way to you to be jailed,” he said. “Ring an ambulance. Maybe you can save her because I hit her by hammer in head.”

A garda forced down the front door of the house and found ms Benko having a seizure with her hands on her head. She was rushed to hospital, underwent neurosurgery and was discharged more than a year later.

Benko told gardaí that he intended to kill his wife that morning.

“When I was going upstairs, I intended to kill her,” he said. “Of course I’m guilty.”

He said his wife’s drug taking had made his and their three-year-old son’s life hell, adding that the toddler had found a bag of her ecstasy tablets.

“I was sick of her,” he said.

“I was afraid she would kill my son by him finding drugs,” he said.

He was asked whether he had decided to kill his wife to protect their son.

“You could say that,” he replied.

“I thought she was going to leave,” he said, adding she had left him twice, taking their child with her both times. “If she said she’d leave and not take [the child] I wouldn’t mind so much.”

“I wanted to make my justice to finish my hell,” he said.

In mitigation, Remy Farrell SC, defending, said the primary consideration for attempted murder is the question of intention. “One of the features of the case is the intention does appear to be quite transient.”

He submitted it was not a case where there has been a plea of guilty but none of the essential facts were contested.

Mr Farrell said Benko became very upset when his son saw ecstasy tablets in the back of the car and attempted to consume one of them.

He said Mr Benko had made an attempt on his own life.

Mr McGinn read victim impact reports on behalf of Ms Benko’s brother Peter Kaniecny and mother Malgorzata.

Her mother said she had given up her entire life to look after her daughter after the attack and was told by a doctor that treated her that she had been hit “many more” than three times.

Her brother said he was “completely distraught” when he heard what happened to her and said his life had been “turned upside down”.