independent

Friday 20 September 2019

Woman asked for witness protection

REBECCA CASE ACCUSED IS ACQUITTED BY JURY

HELEN CONNORS, the woman acquitted on Friday of impeding the inquiry into the murder of 30-year-old Rebecca French, asked gardaí for witness protection, the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin heard.

Mum-of-two Rebecca was savagely kicked and beaten to death with golf clubs by four men at a house in Ard na Dara, Clonard, Wexford on October 9, 2009. Her charred body was found shortly afterwards tied up in the boot of her burning blue Opel Corsa.

Helen Connors (27), of Belvedere Grove, said she had asked to be moved to ' another town, another country' fearing the men would think she was a 'rat' and that she would get 'a bullet in the head'.

She told the court of being forced by the four men to clean up a large quantity of blood and burning other evidence at the scene, while they went to dispose of Rebecca's body. HELEN CONNORS, who was last week acquitted of impeding the inquiry into the murder of 30year-old Rebecca French, asked gardaí for witness protection.

During her retrial at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin she said that she had asked to be moved to 'another town, another country' fearing the men would think she was a 'rat' and that she would get 'a bullet in the head'.

Mother-of-two Rebecca was savagely kicked and beaten to death with golf clubs by four men at a house in Ard na Dara, Clonard, Wexford on October 9, 2009.

Her charred body was found shortly afterwards tied up in the boot of her burning blue Opel Corsa a few kilometres away at Codd's Lane.

Connors (27), of Belvedere Grove, was found not guilty of disposing of or attempting to destroy evidence with the intention of impeding the prosecution of the killers.

It took the jury of nine men and three women a little over an hour to deliver their unanimous verdict on Friday.

Earlier, the court heard that Helen Connors told gardaí how she had briefly held the dying woman's hand before cleaning up a large quantity of blood and burning other evidence at the scene, under instructions from the four men, while they went to dispose of Rebecca French's body.

In tearful interviews with gardaí, Connors said she hadn't left the house while the men were gone, because she was afraid she would be killed.

'If they had spotted me on the road I would have been killed. They know where I live. I was on my hands and knees trying to get the blood up, praying to God I wouldn't be killed when they got back,' she said.

In her closing speech, prosecuting counsel Ms Una Ní Rafertaigh BL claimed Connors could have fled the house during a period of at least thirty minutes while the men were gone.

She asked whether someone in fear of their life would reasonably ' wait for them to come back and hope for the best' or whether their survival instinct would kick in and they would ' leg it', either to the woman sleeping in a granny flat out the back, nearby neighbours or shops.

Mr Giollaíosa O Lidheadha SC, defending, told the jury that Rebecca French had been murdered for the 'nasty, evil purpose' of stopping her from going to the guards to complain about being beaten.

'If you get battered like that for wanting to complain about being punished, how could you get less for wanting to complain about someone being killed?' he asked the jury.

Earlier, the court heard how Connors told gardaí that the men had held her arms and forced her to deliver ' two poxy little kicks' to Rebecca's ribs when she was on the ground.

'God forgive me. I didn't want to do it. I was told to kick her. They held me while I kicked her. In my own mind, I thought I'd be killed if I didn't, it was a do or die situation,' Connors told gardaí.

She named Ricardus Dilys, Ruslanas Mineikas, Piotr Pasiak and Patrick O'Connor as the four men who punched, kicked and beat Ms French to death with two golf clubs.

She also admitted swinging a golf club when one of the men handed it to her and told her to hit Rebecca, although the club didn't make contact with the murder victim.

'I was messing with the golf club. I was drunk. I was handed it to hit her, but I swung it and hit Piotr by accident. I didn't hit Rebecca, no way,' she told gardaí.

The court heard how the four men, along with Rebecca French and Helen Connors, had been drinking vodka and wine since about eleven o'clock on the morning in question.

Connors told gardaí everything had been okay until Ricardus started 'punching the face off Rebecca'.

'I asked her to stop provoking Ricardus because she kept getting hit in the face. I said 'Stop what you're at or you're going to be killed by them'.'

She said that when Rebecca said she was going to go the police, Ricardus got 'mad and paranoid' and called the other three men out to the kitchen, where they put on white latex gloves.

She said they proceeded to spray Rebecca in the face with CS gas and then started hitting, kicking and taking turns to beat her with the golf clubs. One man was described as hitting the victim "about twenty times" with the golf club.

'I've never seen anything like it in my life. You wouldn't treat an animal like that,' said Connors, who added she kept her mouth shut because she was afraid she would be killed.

She described how the men ordered her to get fresh latex gloves for them whenever one pair got torn or became full of blood, and to burn the old pair in the fire.

' They were throwing gloves at me and I was throwing them at the fire, I did that two or three times for each of them.'

Connors said she didn't leave the house when the men went to dispose of the body because she didn't know when they would come back, and that she didn't call the guards because she didn't have a phone and was afraid the men would kill her. She also spoke of her attempts to wipe blood from the floor and wall, throwing cloth after blood-stained cloth into the fire.

After hearing the acquittal verdict on Friday, Mr Justice Paul Carney thanked the jury and excused them from further jury duty for the rest of their lives.

This was the second time Helen Connors was before the court on a charge of impeding the Rebecca French murder investigation. At the first trial in June 2011 the jury failed to reach agreement and a retrial was set for June 2012.

In March it was reported that Helen Connors was granted compassionate bail for her 27th birthday, so that she could have the chance to 'cultivate her relationship with her child'. She was previously given compassionate leave for her father's funeral in December 2010 and his anniversary Mass a year later.

Most Read

News