Marta Herda found guilty of murder in harbour drowning trial
Woman (29) sentenced to life in prison after driving Csaba Orsos (31) into water in Arklow
Marta Herda pleaded not guilty to the murder of Csaba Orsos at the South Quay, Arklow in March, 2013. Photograph: Collins Courts
A 29-year-old woman has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man by driving him into a harbour, where he drowned.
Marta Herda was a good swimmer and knew that 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.
She 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 that 31-year-old Csaba 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.
The Polish waitress of Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, Co Wicklow was charged with murdering the Hungarian.
She pleaded not guilty and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court earlier this month.
The jury heard that Mr Orsos was in love with her. Herda told gardaí that she didn’t feel the same way, and that he had spent two years following her, phoning her and sending her messages.
On the day of his drowning, she showed them a love letter he had sent her the previous year. She told detectives they were constantly arguing about their relationship and that they had been arguing in the car when she drove into the water.
A security guard had heard the car coming at speed from the town. He said that it had seemed to stop momentarily before picking up again. He heard nothing else for three or four minutes. He then saw and heard a woman screaming as she ran towards the town.
Gardaí later found her soaking wet and she told them there was someone in the water and they had to help.
The search for her passenger began as she was taken to hospital. She told a paramedic: ‘He shouldn’t have been there. I drove the car into the water,’. He testified that she was concerned and kept repeating the name, Csaba.
She later told a garda that he was dead because of his love for her. She said it was 24 hours a day and that she couldn’t take it anymore.
“People think this funny but not for me,” she said on the day of the drowning. “The second year it no longer funny.”
She said that he had got into her car and wanted her to drive to the beach, but that he began screaming at her.
She said she remembered hitting the accelerator.
“I feel I have enough of this,” she said. “I drive to water. I cannot take this anymore.”
She said she recalled being under the water.
“I screamed his name. I saw ladder and got out,” she said.
She was arrested on suspicion of murder more than four months later and denied in Garda interviews that she had driven into the water deliberately.
She was asked why she had told a garda on the day of the incident: “When I drove into the water, I wanted this all to stop.”
She replied that she did want it all to stop and for him to leave her alone. She said he had been screaming in the car and she had wanted him to stop.
She said she was hoping to save him if she had seen him in the water. She said she had to fight for her own life under the water.
“I would never want to hurt anyone or even to destroy my car,” she said.
CCTV footage showed her driving to the part of Arklow where Mr Orsos lived around 5.30am, and a witness heard the driver having a heated argument on the phone. Call records showed that she rang the deceased three times around that time and a postman found his front door wide open later that morning.
Her interviewer put it to her that she had ‘lured him out of his house’.
“This is horrible,” she responded. “Everyone is looking at this story from the last few seconds.”
She said it had been going on for two years.
“Yes, I was stressed and nervous,” she said, when asked if the car was going fast.
“I didn’t want to drive there. It was an accident,” she said, explaining that they had been arguing in the car.
“I couldn’t understand what he was saying and then, bang,” she said.
She agreed that he was a nuisance and a pest. She said she had told him she could never be with someone like him because he would lock her somewhere.
Herda turned away from the jury and wept silently as a video was played of the deceased celebrating his last birthday with her and his family in his home.
His brother could be heard telling her that she was his present. She could be heard replying that she had come to warn the deceased that his manager knew he had lied when he had rung in sick.
In his closing speech, the prosecutor said her car was used “as an instrument of murder”.
Her barrister said that it would be suicide if she had driven into the harbour deliberately and that there was evidence that she wasn’t suicidal.
The jury of eight men and four women began deliberating on Monday morning.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy told them that they had three possible verdicts open to them: guilty of murder, acquittal or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The jury returned to court at 11.36am this Thursday morning, having spent eight hours and 11 minutes deliberating. They had found her guilty of murder by a majority of 11 to one.
Herda showed no emotion as the registrar read out the verdict, but became emotional when the court rose for a number of minutes before sentencing. She was comforted by her legal team and a number of friends.
Herda wept uncontrollably as Mr Justice McCarthy signalled for her to stand while he imposed the mandatory life sentence. She was then led away from her friends by prison officers.