A man accused of stabbing to death a woman he was having an affair with told gardaí that “we were playing a sexual game” when arrested on suspicion of the crime, a murder trial jury has heard.
Valerijs Leitons (25), with an address at St Kevin’s Gardens, Dartry, is charged with murdering Skaidrite Valdgeima (34) on June 26th, 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Central Criminal Court trial has heard that Mr Leitons and Ms Valdgeima, a married woman, had struck up a friendship that became a sexual relationship. The couple met at a concert in May 2019 and began seeing each other frequently over the following weeks.
A pathologist’s report found Ms Valdgeima had suffered “multiple penetrating slash and stab wounds, particularly to the face, head and neck”.
Dr Allan Cala, who carried out the post-mortem examination, told the jury that the deceased had “defence-type injuries on both arms”. He suggested these likely happened when she tried to grab the knife or tried to block it.
A psychiatrist has given evidence that Mr Leitons was suffering with a mental disorder but was not impaired enough to meet the criteria for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict.
Dr Damian Smith, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, told prosecution counsel Conor Devally SC that the accused had shown symptoms of a psychotic disorder as far back as February 2018 and may have stopped taking his medication as early as February 2019.
“Although Mr Leiton was mentally disordered I am not satisfied that his condition is impaired to such a degree to meet the criteria for not guilty by reason of insanity,” Dr Smith said.
The expert witness said it happened during an “acute psychotic lapse of paranoid schizophrenia most likely precipitated by his non-adherence with prescribed antipsychotic medication up to three weeks prior”.
A facilitator attendant at the Binary Hub aparthotel told Mr Devally on Tuesday that he recalled Mr Leiton checking in in the company of a woman.
Brian Keenan said his night was “disturbed dramatically” when a woman dressed in night attire with a dressing gown over it came down to the reception area in a panicked state.
When Mr Keenan ran up to level four of the aparthotel he saw a woman “very much covered in blood” lying on the ground with a man holding a knife crouched over her.
Mr Keenan said he then retreated out the same stairway, looking back every couple of steps to see if this man, Mr Leitons, was following him.
He told Mr Devally that he was satisfied that the man who had “loomed” over Ms Valdgeima was the man who had booked into the accommodation as Mr Leitons.
Under cross-examination, Mr Keenan agreed with defence counsel Kevin White BL that the accused was “acting bizarrely and out of his mind” that night.
A night porter at the Binary Hub, Barry Dowling, testified that he went up to level four of the building after 3.20am that morning and was only able to see a person’s legs on the ground.
Mr Dowling said he ran when he saw a man holding a knife and remembered getting chased by him. “The first thing that struck me was that his hands were full of blood,” he said.
Garda Brian Mulvey, from Kevin Street Garda Station, said he was on duty in a patrol car that night and arrived at the Binary Hub at 3.45am after responding to a call.
When he got to the aparthotel, the witness said that one man was jumping up and down waving his arms and pointing towards Bridgefoot Street saying: “He [is] gone that way”.
Gda Mulvey decided to drive after the suspect and observed Mr Leitons walking on a nearby footpath in the direction of Bridgefoot Street with his hands in his pockets. When the witness directed the accused to stop, he refused to and “shouted something” at him.
“I manoeuvred the patrol car right to block his path, he then fled and ran around the back of the car in the direction of the quays,” he said. Gda Mulvey’s colleague Garda John Noone chased Mr Leitons and tackled him on the side of the road.
The witness said Gda Noone was screaming that the accused had a knife and tried to restrain him as he reached for his pockets.
Gda Mulvey said Mr Leitons was very aggressive, kicking out and kept “going for his pockets” resisting arrest.
Eventually, Gda Mulvey secured a set of handcuffs on him. The accused became “even more highly aggressive” when he saw the cells in the back of a garda van, which later arrived.
Gda Mulvey said he got several blows to the head from Mr Leitons and was forced to pepper spray him, which had no effect as he kept kicking out violently. When the accused was turned upright in the back of the patrol van, the witness said a knife or box cutter fell from his person.
‘Stained with blood’
Mr Leitons was arrested and placed in the garda van. Gda Mulvey observed that his hands were “heavily stained” with blood. When Mr Leitons was asked if he had stabbed a woman in the Binary Hub, the accused said: “We were playing a sexual game.”
The witness said he found Ms Valdgeima in a “partial state of undress”, wearing her underwear, lying on her back and heavily stained with “blood everywhere” when he returned to the apartment complex.
He observed multiple stab wounds to her arms, chest and face. He said that a section of her nose was missing, there were stab wounds through her cheeks and she had been stabbed through the right eye.
In his interviews with gardaí on June 27, Mr Leitons said his partner had tried to provoke him and was “kind of playing with me, toying with me”.
“She told me she loved me, that wasn’t the truth, she was just toying with me. It was a game,” he told detectives.
He later said that he had been “fighting for my life”, needed treatment and was suffering from “derealisation”.
Referring to the night of the incident, the accused told gardaí that he thought he had fallen in love with Ms Valdgeima but said she was “toying” with him and because of her behaviour his psychosis had started again.
When asked if he had stabbed the deceased, the accused man said: “It looks like it, yes.”
In his opening address last week, Mr Devally told the jury that the question they would have to decide in the case was whether the accused’s disorder was enough to satisfy the insanity plea, or whether Mr Leitons could be found guilty of manslaughter, but with diminished responsibility.
The trial continues on Wednesday before Mr Justice Paul Burns and a jury of seven men and five women.