Man who killed woman in 'violent and sustained knife attack' is jailed for 12 years

ireland
Man Who Killed Woman In 'Violent And Sustained Knife Attack' Is Jailed For 12 Years Man Who Killed Woman In 'Violent And Sustained Knife Attack' Is Jailed For 12 Years
Valerijs Leitons (25) had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering Saidrite Valdgeima (34) on June 26th, 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8. Photo: PA Images
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Alison O'Riordan

A man with paranoid schizophrenia who fatally stabbed a woman with whom he was having an affair has been jailed for 12 years.

During the trial, an American tourist described her encounter with the blood-covered victim at a Dublin aparthotel as being "like the movie Carrie".

"She looked me in the eye and under her breath, what breath she had, said: ‘Help me’,” Debbie Halley had told the Central Criminal Court.

Another American tourist described how he and his friend used a chair and a fire extinguisher to fight off Valerijs Leitons as his victim Saidrite Valdgeima lay bleeding to death in the corridor of the complex two years ago.

Sentencing 25-year-old on Tuesday, Mr Justice Paul Burns said mother of three Ms Saidrite was the victim of an extremely violent and sustained knife attack. The judge described the incident as a "brutal attack" upon "a defenceless woman" but said it must be noted that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time.

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He added: "There is a recognition that a mental disorder can diminish but not eliminate the degree of culpability which the accused must bear for his actions".

Enemy agent

Ms Valdgeima was stabbed over 50 times at an aparthotel in Dublin in June 2019 because her killer believed she was an enemy agent with a weapon sent to harm him.

Leitons, a Latvian man with an address at St Kevin’s Gardens, Dartry, Dublin 6, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering Ms Valdgeima (34) on June 26th, 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8.

Last October, a jury rejected Leitons' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and returned a verdict of manslaughter but with substantially diminished responsibility due to his mental disorder.

The jury rejected the defence's case that Leitons' "deep-seated and engrained mental illness" had "crossed the threshold" of diminished responsibility and brought him into "a further place", namely not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.

The week-long trial at the Central Criminal Court heard Leitons and the deceased, a Latvian woman who worked as a translator, had struck up a friendship that became a sexual relationship. The couple met at a concert in May 2019 and began seeing each other frequently.

Post-mortem

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A pathologist’s report found Ms Valdgeima had suffered “multiple penetrating slash and stab wounds, particularly to the face, head and neck”.

Dr Allan Cala, who carried out the post-mortem examination, testified that the deceased had "defence-type injuries on both arms". He suggested these likely happened when she tried to grab the knife or tried to block it.

The accused told gardaí: "We were playing a sexual game" when arrested on suspicion of the crime.

Before delivering the sentence on Tuesday, Mr Justice Burns said the victim and accused had met on previous occasions but only knew each other for a month prior to the killing.

Eyewitnesses, he said, had described Ms Valdgeima begging for help as the accused stood calmly over her saying "it was only a game". The accused was under the delusional belief that "he was under a spy network against him" and the attack on the victim was so severe that she did not survive, said the judge.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Burns said the jury had concluded that Leitons knew the nature of his act, that he did know what he was doing was wrong and that he could have stopped himself from doing it.

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"It is clear from the victim impact statements that the lives of the deceased's family are devastated by the killing. Her children must find a way to recover a sense of well-being," the judge said.

Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said Ms Valdgeima's life was taken in "a horrific knife attack" and the attack had been pre-meditated to some extent. Prior to the killing, Leitons had come under mental health services and had ceased taking his medication, the court heard.

Diminished responsibility

In the absence of a mental disorder, the judge pointed out that the killing of Ms Valdgeima would have amounted to murder and a compulsory life sentence would have been imposed on him.

However, the judge explained that the accused must "bear a degree of responsibility" for what happened that night saying: "There is a recognition that a mental disorder can diminish but not eliminate the degree of culpability which the accused must bear for his actions".

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The judge set a headline sentence of 15 years in prison. Aggravating factors included the level of violence used, the use of a knife and there being an element of premeditation albeit with a mental disorder.

In mitigation, he noted the accused's lack of previous convictions, his remorse and that the plea entered by the defendant was dictated by the medical report.

Leitons was sentenced to 13 years in prison with the final year suspended for a period of five years. It was backdated to June 27th, 2019.

The judge expressed his sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of the late Ms Valdgeima.

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