Polish national avoids jail for false imprisonment of man who was later murdered

Symon Tarkowski
Symon Tarkowski

A Polish national has avoided jail for the false imprisonment of a man who was eventually murdered.

Symon Tarkowski (28) of Church Hill, Tullamore, Co Offaly pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the false imprisonment of Patryk Krupa (23) at Bogganfin in Athlone, County Roscommon and of withholding information between June 20th and 21st, 2014.

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

In April, 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 were found guilty of Mr Krupa's murder.

They were sentenced to life on June 13 by Mr Justice Tony Hunt at the Central Criminal Court.

Today, Mr Justice Hunt said that these were a set of very sad and tragic events.

He said that Tarkowski’s culpability was “considerably different” to the other two individuals and the real question was what approach he should now take with “those differences.”

“I’m told that Mr Tarkowski did not set out on the day with harm in mind in relation to Mr Krupa which is a clear distinction from the other two men who set out to do harm to him. Mr Tarkowski was not part of that enterprise and plan,” he said.

The court heard that Tarkowski was “going about his normal business” and was in a restaurant with his girlfriend, when he received a phone call from Mr Sychulec who was a “person of violent disposition.”

“The same observation can be made about Mr Gruchacz,” he added.

The judge said that Tarkowski was not associated with the two men when they set about looking for Mr Krupa.

“He received a telephone call and was asked to come to a particular scene. The assistance he lent to the false imprisonment was driving his car around various locations with Mr Krupa. That was his level of involvement,” said Mr Justice Hunt.

The court heard there were “clear distinctions” between Tarkowski’s behaviour and the two men previously convicted of murder.

“There was no plan to do harm to Mr Krupa, Tarkowski was under the influence of a person and Inspector Aidan Minnock of Athlone garda station accepts in those circumstances that he would have been out of his depth,” said the judge.

Mr Justice Hunt also agreed that the accused may not have appreciated the severity of what he was getting himself involved in.

“At the scene he did not get out of the car and did not participate in beating the deceased man. It should also be noted that afterwards he went back to the place he was summoned from and only then did the news of Mr Krupa’s death filter through,” he added.

The court heard that Tarkowski has no previous convictions, was not known to gardai previously and had been working in Ireland for a lengthy period of time.

“That cannot be said of the other two people he was associated with. I don’t know the nature of the underlining dispute but I do know he was in contact with these individuals because of the gym he went to,” said the judge.

Mr Justice Hunt said the accused made a “very unwise decision” when he cleaned out his car and this was a “serious error of judgement on his part.”

However upon arrest he was “extremely cooperative” and of “considerable assistance” to gardai in helping a successful prosecution take place.

“He did not continue in the same vein he started in but on the contrary he quickly realised the error of his ways and made amends, I regard this as a significant mitigating factor,” he said.

The court heard that Tarkowski has expressed genuine remorse since then and he was acting under “a very malign influence" at the time. 

Mr Justice Hunt said that while one must obviously consider a custodial sentence, the limited nature of Tarkowski’s involvement in the case and the mitigating factors outweighed the necessity of imposing one.

“A considerable number of lives have been ruined as a result of this and I see no reason why another one should be ruined as a consequence,” he said.

Mr Justice Hunt then imposed a suspended sentence of five years to run concurrently on each count. 

“You are very lucky I take the view that you became involved in this at the behest of somebody else. A suspended sentence is not something that simply allows you to walk out of here. If you don’t grab this with both hands I will impose the sentence in full. Two men have gone to prison for life and I don’t think this man is in the same category,” he concluded.

At Tarkowski's sentence hearing on June 13, Inspector Aidan Minnock, of Athlone garda station, told prosecuting counsel Garnett Orange SC that on the night of the murder, Tarkowski was in a restaurant with his girlfriend, when he received a phonecall from Sychulec.

He drove his car, a black BMW, to a B&Q carpark on the outskirts of Athlone, where he met Mr Krupa's eventual killers, the court heard. 

The two men got into Tarkowski's car and were driven to Athlone.

Inspector Minnock said that Tarkowski was aware the two men were looking for Mr Krupa, who they eventually found on Main Street.

Having taken Mr Krupa into the car, they drove across the Shannon to the Connaught side of Athlone, and the place where Mr Krupa was eventually murdered.

Tarkowski stayed in the car while Mr Krupa was beaten, the court heard, and that he "played no part" in the beating.

Later, the car was driven back to the B&Q carpark, where Sychulec and Gruchacz got out of the car and drove away.

Inspector Minnock said there was evidence that Tarkowski cleaned out his car in an effort to remove forensic evidence such as blood or DNA.

Tarkowski was arrested and interviewed. Inspector Minnock said that he gave a voluntary statement to gardai and that the information gathered was of assistance in identifying the killers.

Tarkowski has no previous convictions, the court heard. 

Under cross-examination, Inspector Minnock agreed with defence counsel Paul Burns SC that Tarkowski was "not party to any premeditated plan".

He said that Tarkowski was interested in bodybuilding and that he had met Sychulec at the gym.

Inspector Minnock also agreed with Mr Burns that Gruchacz and Sychulec were "much more sinister individuals" than Tarkowski, who was "out of his depth" on the night of the murder and might not have appreciated the severity of the beating Mr Krupa received.

"I accept that he certainly was out of his depth and under the influence of two more extreme and experienced people," Inspector Minnock said, adding that after his arrest Tarkowski was "very co-operative".