Woman who drove car into harbour appeals murder conviction

Marta Herda given mandatory life sentence in drowning of Csaba Orsos in March 2013

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

Marta Herda, of Páirc 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 waitress, who was originally from Poland, escaped through the driver’s window after her car had entered the water, but her colleague’s body was found on a nearby beach later that day. A postmortem examination 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.


Opening the appeal, counsel for Herda, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, said the prosecution ran a case, at least in the beginning, that this was a deliberate, premeditated, nasty, nefarious luring of the deceased out for the purpose of an “execution” involving a plan to drive into the river with the window down knowing he could not swim and knowing she could.

Mr Ó Lideadha said there was no evidence at all on Herda’s state of mind or deliberate intent apart from “alleged confessions”. She never said she was driving into the river knowing she was driving into the river, he stated, and there was no suggestion she was attempting to commit suicide.

Mr Ó Lideadha said circumstantial evidence on its own could not have grounded a conviction for murder, but the trial judge essentially conveyed to the jury the proposition that circumstantial evidence could ground a conviction.

He asked the Court of Appeal to consider that point as a matter of law.

He asked the court to think about the idea of a person deliberately putting their window down and making a decision to “execute somebody” else by driving through barriers on the basis that she would be able to escape.

He said the circumstantial evidence did not point to murder and the trial judge’s direction that the circumstantial evidence could amount to murder was not founded in law.

‘Crystal clear’

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Brendan Grehan SC, said "in many ways" the case was "crystal clear".

Mr Grehan said it was set out at the very beginning of the case. “Marta Herda deliberately drove into the sea.”

Where it happened was “more like a runway” than a roadway, Mr Grehan said. leading straight down to the docks and to a 200-metre stretch of straight pier.

He said the car drove straight down that runway, straight through two barriers. It could only have been “at great speed”.

He said Herda did not give evidence herself but the jury saw “hours and hours” of her Garda interviews. The jury could see, he said, what her “use and command” of the English language was. She was very articulate, Mr Grehan said, and it was difficult to write down everything she said because of the “manner of her delivery”.

Mr Grehan will on Wednesday continue making submissions before Mr Justice George Birmingham, Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, the former attorney general’s first appeal hearing since her appointment.