Woman (47) murdered her friend by beating 50 times with claw hammer in Co Derry flat

The court heard negative comments about her parents and background had "triggered the attack”.

Ludmila Poletelova

Ashleigh McDonaldBelfast Telegraph

Details of a "gratuitous and frenzied" attack which claimed the life of a 61-year-old Latvian national were heard in court today.

Ludmila Poletelova was struck in the head 50 times with a claw hammer by her friend.

Belfast Crown Court was told Ms Poletelova's remains were discovered in the living room of her flat at Lodge Court in Limavady in April 2021.

Following this, her friend and fellow Latvian woman Svetlana Svedova (47) was arrested.

Despite her initial denials, Svedova, with an address at College Court in Limavady, admitted battering her friend to death with the hammer and pleaded guilty to a charge of murder last December.

She has been told she will serve a life sentence.

After listening to submissions from the Crown and defence, Mr Justice O'Hara said he wanted time to reflect, adding he would set the tariff next Thursday.

This will be the minimum term Svedova will serve in prison before she is considered eligible for release by parole commissioners.

Prosecuting barrister Mark Farrell outlined that Ms Poletelova had been living and working in Northern Ireland for 12 years before she was murdered.

Describing the mother-of-two as a "quiet lady who kept herself to herself", Mr Farrell said that when Svedova arrived in Limavady in 2020, the victim supported her financially and helped her to settle in.

In April 2021, both were working in a local wine bar. On the 22nd, Ms Poletelova failed to turn up for her shift.

As this was unusual, her boss asked a friend to call at her flat. When they arrived, they noticed that her front door was ajar.

Ms Poletelova was found lying face down in the living room with substantial wounds to her head.

Emergency services were called, but she was pronounced dead at 1pm.

A post-mortem examination concluded she died from blunt force trauma caused by “in excess of 50 blows to the head and skull area”.

The pathologist also noted a fractured eye socket and defensive wounds to her wrist and hands.

A murder investigation was launched and police viewed CCTV from in and around the Lodge Court area. Footage captured Svedova arriving at her friend's flat at around noon on April 20 and leaving again just before midnight.

Footage also showed Svedova carrying two bags, one of which she placed in a bin in Irish Street.

Mr Farrell said: "It's the prosecution's belief that this was the disposal of the murder weapon, which we assert was a claw hammer."

On April 21, Svedova took a taxi to a local rental property agency and paid £520 cash for rent arrears. When Ms Poletelova failed to turn up for her shift at the wine bar the following day, Svedova filled in.

Noticing Svedova had injuries on her arms and was asking people in work if she was being blamed for Ms Poletelova's death, their boss contacted the PSNI.

She was arrested at her workplace on suspicion of murder on April 25 and during questioning admitted she had been at Ms Poletelova's flat that on the 20th.

However, she claimed that when she left, Ms Poletelova was “alive and well”.

In a pre-prepared statement to police, Svedova said she and the deceased were friends, that Ms Poletelova often loaned her money which she paid back and that on the 20th they had been drinking together, but denied attacking her with a claw hammer.

However, the mother-of-one subsequently admitted the murder.

Mr Farrell spoke of the "repeated, gratuitous and frenzied nature” of the attack.

When asked by Mr Justice O'Hara if robbery could have been the motive, given that Svedova paid cash to the rental company after the murder, Mr Farrell said this could not be proven by the Crown.

This issue was addressed by defence barrister Alan Kane KC, who said Svedova claimed the cash had been given to her by her son.

Branding the victim as a "quiet and kindly soul" who offered support to Svedova when she arrived in Limavady, Mr Kane said his client "has expressed, through me, her deepest remorse for her conduct”.

Mr Kane said it was Svedova's case that while the pair were drinking on the Tuesday afternoon, Ms Poletelova made negative comments about her parents and background which "triggered the attack”.

Mr Justice O'Hara said that as Svedova had failed to previously mention this, he wasn't obliged to accept that claim.

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