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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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I stabbed man to protect my friend, Carlisle murder trial told

A jury has heard a man relive the moments when he stabbed the Polish factory worker he is accused of murdering.

Piotr Kulinski photo
Piotr Kulinski

Related: Carlisle murder accused says he was attacked by stabbed man

In a hushed courtroom, an interpreter translated as Piotr Zygner gave his account of what happened on the day when Piotr Kulinski was fatally injured outside the Carlisle home where he lived with his partner and young son.

Zygner, 30, of Currock Road, Currock, denies murder, as do his co-defendants Paulina Mucha, 26, and Sylwester Kawalec, 23, who both also live in Currock Road.

Questioned by his defence barrister Gordon Cole, Zygner gave his version of the events that led up to the tragedy on the morning of October 14 last year, much of the time closing his eyes as he spoke.

He said he owed money to the man who died.

Zygner recalled socialising with friends, including Kawalec, at a house in Ashman Close, Denton Holme, on the Saturday evening before Mr Kulinski died.

The atmosphere had been good, he said. Everybody was joking and he was drinking vodka, he said.

In the early hours of October 14, the Sunday, the group decided to take home a young man called Andre who was falling asleep.

So Zygner and a group of friends – including defendants Kawalec, and Mucha – set off in a car to take him home, with Zygner driving.

Asked how well he was driving, Zygner said: “It wasn’t good. I remember I almost hit the kerb. Sylwester took hold of the steering wheel at the very last moment – otherwise we would have crashed.

The group dropped off their friend and Kawalec suggested going into Carlisle city centre for a drink.

Zygner said: “I told him it was pointless. It was Saturday night and we had not returned the money. It was likely we could meet one of them, and therefore it would end up in a fight of some description. It wasn’t a good idea.”

Afterwards, said the defendant, he decided they should visit Mr Kulinski’s home in Arnside Road, Harraby, so that he could give him some of the money he owed him.

He intended to post the money through the letter box and then go home.

Asked by Mr Cole what his intention was as he got out of the car, he replied: “I went to drop this money. I was supposed to be away [from the car] for a few seconds.”

Zygner then described the moments leading up to and during the stabbing.

He said he noticed as he approached the house that Mr Kulinski’s car had been left with the engine running.

“Did you take a knife with you?” asked Mr Cole.

“No,” said Zygner. “I didn’t have any knife on me.”

Noticing that Mr Kulinski had come out of his house, the defendant said he warned Kawalec not to interfere.

He planned to talk to Mr Kulinski and did not want an argument. Zygner said: “He [Mr Kulinski] stood in the doorway and he was looking at us for a while. While he stood in the doorway he started insulting us.

“He was saying why have you come here, you jerks, or something to that effect.”

Mr Kulinski then left the doorway and asked in an abusive way whether Zygner had brought the money that he owed him.

“As usual,” said Zygner, “he was threatening and he was insulting, which seemed to be the bread and butter of his behaviour. I started to explain myself, saying that I’d bring the rest of the money at the end of the month.

“He started walking towards me, saying give me the money.”

Zygner told the court that he then heard Kawalec shouting that he should watch out as Mr Kulinski had a knife.

Zygner said Mr Kulinski began making a swinging motion at him, but at that stage he did not see a knife. He jumped aside.

Zygner said that after he had fallen into the other man’s front garden and was trying to crawl away he saw a knife, about nine inches long, which had fallen to the ground.

“I was trying my best to escape as soon as possible. I was trying to avoid being hit. I was escaping on all fours.”

He picked up the knife and then saw Mr Kulinski attacking his friend, he said.

“I saw him attacking Sylwester. They were shouting something at each other. Yes, they were fighting.

“It was rather dark. I approached Mr Kulinski. I walked up to Mr Kulinski from behind and I hit him with the knife a couple of times.”

At the time, he said, Mr Kulinski was swinging his hands towards his friend.

Mr Cole said to the defendant: “Some clarification please: when you say you hit him, do you mean you stabbed him?”

Zygner said: “Yes.

“I stabbed him with the knife. I hit him in his leg. I didn’t want to do anything to him. I wanted him to leave Sylwester alone.”

Mr Cole asked: “Where else do you remember hitting him with the knife other than his leg?” Zygner replied: “It was seconds. I’m sure I hit him in the rear of his back and his buttocks.”

The barrister asked: “Did you intend to cause him serious injury?” The defendant replied: “I only wanted him to leave Sywester alone. Nothing else.”

Mr Cole asked: “Did you intend to kill him?” Zygner answered: “I wasn’t thinking about it [or] that I wanted to kill him. I only wanted him to leave him alone.”

Later in his evidence, Zygner said Kawalec suggested that they should get away because he was afraid the police would come after them.

“I didn’t know that anything serious had happened and I didn’t know that we did anything wrong at all. The situation with the police caused Sylwester to panic.”

The defendant said he had wanted to tell the police everything but he was scared for his family in Poland, fearing they may suffer retaliation.

“Why were you scared for your family in Poland?” asked Mr Cole. Zygner answered: “I was scared, and I am still scared.”

Artur Skoczen, 30, of Ashman Close, Denton Holme; and Artur Woszcyna, 44, of Beverley Rise, Harraby, Carlisle, deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by helping cover up what happened.

The trial continues.

PColeman@cngroup.co.uk

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