Man (35) who murdered mother in Co Louth jailed for life

Father ‘a shadow of himself’ after son’s drug-induced psychosis led to ‘most horrific of tragedies’

 Tomasz Piotrowski being taken to Drogheda District Court in 2019. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Tomasz Piotrowski being taken to Drogheda District Court in 2019. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

A 35-year-old man who murdered his mother in her Louth home two years ago has been jailed for life.

Tomasz Krzysztof Piotrowski was sentenced by the Central Criminal Court less than a week after he was deemed fit to stand trial.

Piotrowski, originally from Poland but with an address at Cherrybrook, Ardee, Co Louth, pleaded guilty to murdering his mother Elzbieta Piotrowska (57) on January 8th, 2019, at her home in Clonmore, Ardee.

Mr Justice Michael White noted the case was the second in a matter of months where long-term drug addiction had led to a drug-induced psychosis that resulted in “the most horrific of tragedies”.

The court heard during Thursday’s sentence hearing that a photograph on the accused’s phone showed him kissing his girlfriend and holding an axe behind her head, which she was unaware of. There was another photo of the accused’s hallway where he had positioned an effigy to look like a blood-stained body and written “you’re next” on the floor.

In a victim-impact statement, the accused’s sister, Justina Szuba, said her father Krzysztof could not come to terms with the death of his wife, having spent 40 years together. “He cannot accept the fact that she was murdered, he cannot accept the fact that his son murdered her. It is a tragedy that cannot be explained, understood or accepted,” she added.

She said he cannot eat, lost 20 kilograms after the incident, sees no meaning in life and is a “shadow of himself”.

“I lost one of the most important people in my life. When I think about it longer, I find that I have lost my brother as well,” she said.

She said she fears for herself and her children everyday and deals with constant anxiety and stress. She said her children have lost their grandmother “in ways they should never have heard of” and their sense of security has been shattered. “They believe that the world is full of dangers,” she added.

Fitness for trial

Ms Piotrowska’s decapitated body was found in her home after suffering a significant number of stab wounds. An axe and a number of Stanley knives, one of which was blood-stained, were found close to her body.

Piotrowski was arrested on the same day and was subsequently deemed unfit to be tried having been assessed by psychiatrists at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum, Dublin.

However, Mr Justice White deemed Piotrowski fit to stand trial last Friday after hearing evidence from two consultant psychiatrists who had disagreed on the issue. The judge said he was satisfied that the man could make a plea, follow the evidence and make a proper defence.

Following his arraignment on Thursday, Mr Justice White asked defence counsel Róisín Lacey SC if she was satisfied that her client understood everything in relation to his plea. Ms Lacey said the defence were cognisant of the court’s ruling last week and it did not appear that anything had changed since then. “Clearly the belief outlined by Dr Conor O’Neill still persists in relation to the deceased,” she said.

Dr O’Neill from the CMH previously testified that the defendant continued to hold a range of delusional beliefs including that the deceased was not his real mother but a witch who used black magic to harm him.

At a hearing in December, the court heard Dr Mary Davoren had decided Piotrowski was fit to stand trial following a consultation with him the previous month. During the consultation, Piotrowski accepted that he had lied to psychiatrists in order to get a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a lesser sentence.

In her evidence, Dr Davoren said she was satisfied that the accused was able to describe the various plea options available to him, had a good understanding of them and met the criteria for fitness to stand trial. The doctor said Piotrowski had told her that he had considered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity but said he did not want to spend a long time in the CMH.

Giving evidence on Thursday, Detective Superintendent John O’Flaherty told prosecuting counsel Dominic McGinn SC, with Tom Neville, that Ms Piotrowska, her husband, the accused and his sister had come to Ireland 10 years previously. The accused and his younger sister were not living in the family home at the time of the killing, he said.

Outlining the events of the morning of January 8th, the detective said a friend of Ms Piotrowska had called to her home to take her shopping in Dundalk. The friend rang the deceased’s doorbell a number of times but there was no answer and when she looked through the letter box she could see a light on inside and hear the dog barking. The woman tried to call Ms Piotrowska’s mobile phone and she could hear the phone ringing inside so she went to the rear of the property to get access through the patio doors, which were unlocked. She found Ms Piotrowska’s body in the hallway.

The accused’s father told gardaí his son had developed psychiatric issues from drug use two years previously and had been admitted to hospital in Drogheda. However, Piotrowski escaped from hospital and went to Poland, where he remained until his mother brought him home.

The accused had repeated delusional beliefs that the deceased was not his birth mother. When gardaí checked his phone they found a false DNA test, which showed Ms Piotrowska was not his mother and the accused had sent this to other family members weeks before her killing. However, this was discounted by Forensic Science Ireland, whose tests showed that his parents were his biological parents.

Ms Lacey, for Piotrowski, said his repeated delusional beliefs continue to persist.

Sentencing Piotrowski to the mandatory term of life imprisonment, Mr Justice White said this was the “most tragic of cases”.

The judge said he had to deal with the very difficult issue of Piotrowski’s fitness to plead in the context of his previous history of mental illness. Both the accused’s parents had tried over a period of time to help their son with his drug addiction and had paid a drug debt of €7,000 on his behalf from their “limited life savings”, he said. There was no doubt from the evidence that Piotrowski had intentionally set out to murder his mother and had planned to do so, he remarked.

The judge asked for the accused’s psychiatric condition to be monitored in prison.