Woman goes on trial accused of simulating suicide of housemate
Egita Jaunmaize charged with impeding arrest of man suspected of murder
The prosecution allege Egita Jaunmaize placed a blue cord around Antra Ozolina’s neck in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious. Photograph: Collins Courts
A 34-year-old woman has gone on trial accused of simulating the suicide of a housemate who was strangled in Co Cavan almost four years ago.
Egita Jaunmaize, of no fixed abode, is charged with impeding the apprehension or prosecution of a man, knowing or believing him to have murdered Antra Ozolina (49) or committed some other arrestable offence at The Old Post, Main Street, Kilnaleck, Co Cavan on or about June 27th or June 28th, 2014.
The prosecution alleges that Ms Jaunmaize, a Latvian national, placed a blue cord around Ms Ozolina’s neck so as to simulate her suicide in order to make it more difficult to establish that her death was suspicious.
Ms Jaunmaize was arraigned before the Central Criminal Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC for the defence said on Tuesday afternoon his client accepts Ms Ozolina’s death was not caused by suicide and she does not dispute that another named person caused her death.
Opening the prosecution case, Patrick Gageby SC told the jury the trial concerned the death of a woman called Ms Ozolina, a Latvian national who was divorced but had family.
She had been working for a number of years in a mushroom factory which he said was “a modest enough type of job”.
Mr Gageby said Ms Ozolina lived in a small house in the village of Kilnaleck with Ms Jaunmaize and the accused’s boyfriend.
Counsel said gardaí were alerted that there had been an incident in Kilnaleck and a number of people wanted to report this to gardaí but they could not speak English.
He said the jury will hear gardaí went to the house where they found the deceased in an ensuite bedroom. The upper part of Ms Ozolina’s body was in the shower tray, her face was blue and swollen and a nylon type rope was around her neck, he said.
The rope was not attached to anything when gardaí arrived. In the room adjacent to Ms Ozolina’s body was a prayer book and a vodka bottle. “There was no apparent sign of a struggle, at first flush it did not look like a crime had been committed,” he added.
Mr Gageby said Ms Ozolina’s death was not deemed to be suspicious at this stage, but within a short period of time this had changed.
Mr Gageby said the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, carried out a postmortem and found evidence of blunt force injury to Ms Ozolina’s head and face. He determined the cause of death was neck compression.
Mr Gageby said gardaí believed the rope’s function around the deceased’s neck was to give the idea that she had killed herself.
Counsel told the jury they will also hear that gardaí secured the assistance of an engineer who was able to show the shower rail could not have supported her weight. The evidence was that Ms Ozolina had not died by hanging herself, he said.
He said the jury would hear the accused was one of the first group who went to the Garda station and was therefore one of the central people to the investigation.
Mr Gageby said Ms Jaunmaize originally told gardaí she had had a verbal row with Ms Ozolina on the evening of June 27th. She told gardaí she had found her body the following morning when she went into her bedroom.
The accused said she then went to her friend’s house whose son spoke English in order to to bring the incident to the attention of the authorities.
Mr Gageby said the accused initially told gardaí the man in question was not present on the night . “Subsequently, as a result of careful Garda investigation, it would appear the accused told gardaí the argument was more than verbal,” he said.
Choked to death
Mr Gageby said Ms Jaunmaize ultimately told gardaí she saw her boyfriend take Ms Ozolina by the neck and choke her to death using his forearm. The man asked her to put a rope around Ms Ozolina’s neck with a view to showing this was suicide and not murder, said Mr Gageby.
He said the issue is not about whether Ms Ozolina died lawfully or by suicide. He said the issue in the trial is if there was a reasonable excuse on the accused’s part of placing the rope around the deceased’s neck. “It will become clear as the case moves on that the accused admitted and agreed she did this act but she was fearful for herself and her own life,” he said.
A statement by Garda Arthur O’Connor was read into evidence by Mr Gageby on Tuesday afternoon.
Garda O’Connor said he received a phone call on the morning of June 28th informing him that foreign nationals had reported a woman’s death in a house in Kilnaleck.
Ms Jaunmaize, a male and a female met him outside Kilnaleck Garda station. The woman told Garda O’Connor that Ms Jaunmaize did not speak English but she had found her housemate dead, she had killed herself.
Garda O’Connor made his way to a yellow terraced house with the three people and Ms Jaunmaize let them in using her key.
Garda O’Connor went upstairs to a bedroom where he observed two “blue” feet on the floor of an ensuite bathroom. Upon entering, he saw a woman in grey trousers and a pink jumper slumped on the floor inside the door.
He saw a small amount of blood in the shower tray but he could not see where it was coming from. Her face was blue and swollen.
There was a heavy towel rail with no towel on it and a metal rod on top of the shower. The left side of her face was in contact with the shower tray.
He checked the body for signs of life and a pulse but there was none. A nearly empty bottle of Smirnoff vodka was on the floor beside her.
He did not notice anything suspicious nor any sign of a struggle. It appeared this woman had killed herself , he said. He went downstairs and spoke to the accused who told him that she and Ms Ozolina had had a falling out the
previous night and they were the only two people in the house at the time.
The accused said she went into Ms Ozolina’s bedroom the following morning and found her with a rope around her neck.
The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven men and five women. It is expected to last two weeks.