Waitress who drove man who loved her into deep harbour loses appeal

Marta Herda begins sobbing and embraces family and friends after judgment delivered

Marta Herda knew her passenger Csaba Orsos could not swim. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Marta Herda knew her passenger Csaba Orsos could not swim. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

Ruaidhrí­ Giblin

A 30-year-old woman who drove a man who loved her into a deep harbour, where he drowned, has lost an appeal against her conviction for murder.

Marta Herda, of Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, Co Wicklow, knew her passenger could not swim when she drove her Volkswagen Passat through the crash barriers at South Quay, Arklow shortly before 6am on March 26th, 2013.

Herda had pleaded not guilty to the murder of 31-year-old Hungarian man Csaba Orsos but a jury at the Central Criminal Court found her guilty and she was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on July 28th, 2016.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the Polish waitress escaped through the driver’s window at the harbour but her colleague’s body was found on a nearby beach later that day. A post-mortem exam found Mr Orsos died from drowning and not from injuries related to the crash.

The trial heard that the handbrake had been applied before the car entered the water and that the only open window was the driver’s.

Herda moved to appeal her conviction on 17 grounds. However, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said all grounds of appeal were rejected in the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

Herda began sobbing and embraced a number of family members and friends after the judgment was delivered.

Speaking outside court, Herda’s family indicated an appeal to the Supreme Court was likely.

Her sister Monika said: “I think this was a ridiculous decision. Marta had an unfair verdict in my opinion and in the opinion of our family and our friends. We are sorry about Csaba but what happened after and now with that verdict is not fair for Marta.

“That’s why it’s not the end for now. We will wait for the Supreme Court.”

Earlier, Mr Justice Mahon said Herda was a Polish national who came to live in Ireland at the age of 19.

Mr Justice Mahon said it was “fanciful” to suggest driving a car off a harbour pier into deep water at speed was deliberate but at the same time was not intended to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Orsos.

Mr Justice Mahon said the decision to admit the evidence of two witnesses who were nurses was correct. They were “disinterested witnesses who were persons of integrity”.

He said it was arguable, if not likely, that words attributed by a nurse to Herda to the effect that Mr Orsos did not believe she would drive the car into the water - “he didn’t think I would do it” - constituted an admission or an inference that she had done so deliberately.

The same might equally be said of what Herda said to a Garda, after formal caution. She said: “I remember I turn and not go for beach. I remember I hit accelerator and I think I have enough of this I have enough of him I can no longer take this. All I see is his angry face and screaming. I know that I drive to water. I could not take it any more.”

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Brendan Grehan SC, said the case “really was crystal clear” and there simply had not been the legal controversies in the trial the defence were now seeking to rely on.

“Marta Herda deliberately drove into the sea,” Mr Grehan said. “The car was used as an instrument of murder. Whether she achieved that with a gun or a sledgehammer doesn’t matter.”

He said the car drove straight down a road that was “more like a runway” than a roadway, leading straight down to the docks and to a 200 metre straight stretch of pier.

The car, which could only have been travelling “at great speed”, travelled straight down the road, through two barriers and into the water.