catastrophic injuries | 

Pair who beat homeless man to death in disused parochial house are jailed

Adrian Kozak (22) and Caolon Michael Johnston (21) beat Polish national Piotr Krowka to death in Maghera in March 2018

Ashleigh McDonaldBelfast Telegraph

Two men who carried out a "brutal and sustained attack" on a homeless person in Maghera have been jailed for manslaughter.

Adrian Kozak (22) and Caolon Michael Johnston (21) beat Polish national Piotr Krowka to death at the back of a disused parochial house in the Co Derry town in March 2018.

Kozak, of Garvey Wood in Ballymena, who was 17 at the time and involved in previous attacks on Mr Krowka, was handed an eight-year sentence, divided equally between custody and licence.

Johnston, from The Fort in Maghera, was handed a six-year sentence, with three years in custody and the rest on licence. He was aged 16 at the time and described as easily led.

The pair were sentenced at Belfast Crown Court by Judge Patricia Smyth, who branded the case as "exceptionally difficult”.

She spoke of Kozak and Johnston's youth and immaturity in March 2018 and said she accepted neither intended to cause Mr Krowka, who was 37, serious harm.

Victim Piotr Krowka. Credit: PSNI

The deceased had been living with fellow Polish people in Maghera but became homeless following allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman.

This resulted in him being attacked on several occasions prior to the fatal beating carried out at a disused property on the Glen Road on March 31, 2018.

After attacking Mr Krowka, Kozak and Johnston left the scene. They returned the following day, and despite it being obvious that he remained in the same position on the ground from the night before, the pair failed to raise the alarm. His remains were discovered on April 3, 2018 and a police investigation was launched.

CCTV footage from relevant areas in Maghera was viewed and police were able to ascertain that the last time Mr Krowka was seen alive was on March 31 when he was captured walking around the town.

A local man saw him heading in the direction of the disused parochial house, where he often sought refuge, at around 9pm.

Kozak was observed following Mr Krowka then attacking him on the street, and when Kozak was challenged he ran off and met up with several others teenagers including Johnston at the Maghera steps.

At 9.10pm, Kozak and Johnston left the group and made their way to the premises, and as Judge Smyth revealed "over the course of the next 45 minutes, both defendants carried out a fatal attack upon Mr Krowka within the derelict house”.

"It is clear this was a brutal and sustained attack which resulted in catastrophic injuries,” she said.

"A vulnerable man was left to die, having been subjected to a brutal and sustained beating by two teenagers who did not intend to cause him really serious harm, and who, due to their age, relative immaturity, lighting conditions within a derelict house and a degree of panic, failed to appreciate the extent of his injuries or the fact he was in a life-threatening condition,” the judge added.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Krowka died as a result of blunt force trauma to his head, chest and abdomen. Four of his ribs were fractured while a laceration was also caused to one of his kidneys.

Kozak was arrested on April 10, 2018, and when clothes and footwear were removed and forensically examined, Mr Krowka's blood was located on the toe area of a shoe. Johnston was arrested seven days later.

During interviews, both denied involvement in the fatal attack. They were each charged with murder and were due to stand trial, but when the charge of manslaughter was offered by the Crown, they pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of Mr Krowka.

Speaking afterwards, a PSNI detective inspector said: "This was a sad and senseless loss of a life, and my thoughts, and that of the investigation team, are very much with the Krowka family. Kozak and Johnston had been out for the evening, socialising with a group of friends, before the attack took place.

"I hope that both these young men will come to understand the consequences of their actions on that night as they spend the next number of years in prison."

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