Mother of man beaten unconscious and left to drown cannot forget son's 'massacred face'

Murder victim: Patryk Krupa
Murder victim: Patryk Krupa

The mother of a 23-year-old man who was beaten unconscious and left to drown in the River Shannon has said she cannot forget her son's "massacred face" when she closes her eyes.

This morning, a cage fighter and another man were jailed for life for murdering Polish-born Patryk Krupa.

Mr Krupa drowned in the Shannon outside Athlone while incapacitated with a head injury from a violent assault on June 20, 2014.

Leszek Sychulec (34), a Polish cage fighter with an address at Drinan, Ballymahon, Co Longford, and Andrzej Gruchacz (35) with an address in Warsaw, Poland had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Krupa at Bogganfin, Athlone, Co Roscommon.

On April 21 last, a jury of four women and eight men deliberated for five hours before finding both men guilty of murdering Mr Krupa. 

This morning, Mr Garnet Orange SC for the State told the court that he had been asked to read a victim impact statement on behalf of the mother of Mr Krupa. 

Mrs Krupa said that her life has changed a lot since the death of her son and she cannot function properly anymore. 

"Nothing is the same anymore. I can't sleep and I didn’t work for a year. I now only go to work twice a week as I cannot stand being around people," she said.

Mrs Krupa said the last time she saw her son was when he was walking to the gym and if she had only stopped the car "nothing would have happened him."

"I keep playing the day over and over again in my head, nothing will turn back the time," she said. 

The court heard that her son really wanted to be a father but that was taken from him. 

"I thought I saw my son in town the other day but that wasn’t him. Sometimes I look around to to see him but it never happens. I keep dreaming about how he was beaten and kicked and dragged into the water. The two drag marks were there for a very long time after the day," she said. 

Mrs Krupa cannot look at people when they are smiling and laughing. 

"I can't look at fathers pushing their kids around town as my son can't do that now. I can't listen to music and I don’t enjoy life anymore," she said. 

The court heard that her daughter moved out of her home a few days after "everything happened" as she "could not stand living there as everything reminded" her of Patryk.

All her day's now consist of going to the cemetery. 

"I cannot forget my son's massacred face when I close my eyes. I keep seeing him in the morgue in a black bag. I still can't forget how I felt mentally and physically in the morgue. I dream of not being able to hold him in my arms again," she said. 

Defence counsel Sean Gillane SC told the court that his client, Mr Sychulec, is a Polish national with limited English and is a parent of a two-year-old child. 

Defence counsel Conor Devally SC said his client, Mr Gruchacz, is 35 years of age and "has a mixed history" as much of his education was spent in young offenders units. 

Handing down sentence, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that this was a "shocking and violent event." 

He thanked Mrs Krupa for her "very moving victim impact statement" where her "continuing upset is obvious."

The judge said it is a "great tragedy for a parent to lose a child" and her victim impact statement captures "the unnatural position of a parent put in that position."

He said Mrs Krupa lost her son "in such a meaningless way" and he extended his condolences to her on her loss.

"Nothing I can say can improve her situation. I hope she regards the outcome of the deliberations by the jury as some comfort," he said. 

Mr Justice Hunt then complimented Inspector Aiden Minnock and his team of gardai at Athlone Garda Station for the way they carried out "such a comprehensive investigation into this matter" as well as the gathering and presentation of the CCTV footage.

Before handing down sentence the judge told the court that no explanation into the background of what caused this to happen to Mr Krupa had been forthcoming.

He said the only mitigating factors on the part of the two accused was their cooperation with the investigation but there was "very few mitigating factors beyond that."

The judge said that in his opinion the evidence was "particularly clear in one case" and "very clear in another."

Mr Justice Hunt then gave the men mandatory life sentences and backdated them to the respective dates from when each of them went into custody. 

He then imposed a seven year concurrent sentence on Sychulec for false imprisonment as well as a five year concurrent sentence on Gruchacz for false imprisonment. 

This morning, Mr Garnet Orange SC for the State told the court that the two men were convicted of murder and false imprisonment.

Mr Orange then called Inspector Aidan Minnock of Athlone Garda Station to give evidence.

The court heard that Mr Krupa was walking through Athlone town with two associates on the evening of June 20 2014. 

"The circumstances were that as he was walking through the town, close to the River  Shannon, a car stopped and two men got out," said Mr Orange.

Counsel said that the two accused men were the two men who had got out of the car. 

"After a short exchange Mr Krupa got into the car and he was driven away in the company of the two accused," said Mr Orange.

The two young men who had previously accompanied Mr Krupa were concerned about his welfare and began looking for him. 

Insp Minnock agreed with Mr Orange that Krupa's two associates went to an area close to the town "on a hunch" after 7pm that evening.

"This area was frequented by fishermen. Shortly afterwards they found Krupa lying face down in the water. He was partially clothed and nearly lifeless. Efforts made to resuscitate him were unsuccessful," said counsel.

Mr Krupa was pronounced dead after 8pm and a garda investigation began.

Mr Orange said that Sychulec was later identified to gardai as a person of interest. He was arrested the following morning and detained for an approximate period of time.

The court heard that the upshot of the investigation was that Sychulec denied having been in Athlone on the night of the murder.

Mr Orange said that the State pathologist had conducted an autopsy on the deceased and her ultimate conclusion was that Krupa had received a severe beating which led to him being knocked unconscious. 

"It was a combination of him being in the water when he was unconscious that led to his death," said counsel.

Insp Minnock agreed with counsel that the prosecution had relied heavily on CCTV footage from various locations around Athlone and arising from this gardai were able to identify another person of interest "who for a period of time remained unidentified."

The court heard that Andrzej Gruchacz was then identified as this person of interest.

"He was found having been arrested in Scotland when attending a football match in Edinburgh and he was extradited to Ireland in February 2015," said counsel.

Mr Orange said the case then proceeded and the two men pleaded not guilty but were ultimately convicted by a jury. 

Insp Minnock told the court that Sychulec was in Ireland for a period of time prior to this incident and took part in cage fighting. 

"He lived in Ballymahon, Co Longford and has a number of previous convictions in Ireland and abroad," said Insp Minnock. 

His previous convictions include unlawful possession of drugs, aggravated extortion and robbery. 

Insp Minnock told the court that Gruchacz had seven convictions in total with the most recent being for burglary.  

Alison O'Riordan