A forensic scientist has told a murder trial that significant blood-staining marks suggested there was “more to” a woman's death than “just landing” at the bottom of a staircase and in his opinion an assault had taken place.
The Central Criminal Court jury also heard today that there was an attempt to “wipe out” blood-stained patterns on the walls next to the stairs where the woman died.
Renars Veigulis (32) of Old Bridge Street in Freshford, Co Kilkenny has pleaded not guilty to murdering Rita Apine (29) at their home on or about May 14, 2017.
Mr Veigulis told ambulance staff that his partner fell down the stairs, while prosecuting lawyers have told the jury they will hear evidence that her injuries were inconsistent with a fall.
Opening the trial last week, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Vincent Heneghan SC, said the accused and the deceased were from both Latvia. Mr Veigulus came to Ireland about five years ago, followed six months later by Ms Apine, and in 2016 they moved to Freshford, about 20 miles from Kilkenny City.
Dr Stephen Doak, from Forensic Science Ireland, gave evidence today (Tuesday) that he assists gardai with blood-staining pattern analysis and attended the scene on May 14 and 17.
Dr Doak testified that there are different types of blood patterns including contact-staining, blood splatter, airborne blood, swipe patterns and cast-off blood. The witness said he observed all of these at the scene and had detailed them in his report.
He told Mr Heneghan that he observed a large area of blood-staining on the wall beside the first step of the stairs and there was contact blood-staining on top of the baby-gate. Dr Doak said he also found hair swipe blood patterns on the wall of the stairs.
“There was more to the event than someone just landing at the bottom of the stairs. These blood-staining marks are significant and I felt there was a forceful event that occurred at the time,” he remarked.
Dr Doak stated he observed a large area of wet blood-staining on the floor that had been wiped up as well as splatter blood-staining on the skirting board inside the front door.
The witness said he formed the opinion that a combination of different types of blood-staining suggested to him that an assault had taken place at the house as opposed to a body falling down the stairs.
Dr Doak said he returned to the house at Old Bridge Street on May 17 and used a chemical based substance known as luminol which “lights up” blood in a darkened room as he had previously formed the opinion that something was not quite right, namely that there were “missing areas of blood”.
He said he sprayed the chemical onto the wall of the stairs and believed there had been a “washing up incident” of the blood-staining. “The person who wiped this wall had a blood-stained sponge or cloth and left this marking which was not visible to the naked eye but was visible to the chemical eye,” said Dr Doak.
In conclusion, Dr Doak said that after he had used luminol he was of the opinion that there had been an active attempt to wipe out blood-stained patterns on the interior walls behind the front door.
He agreed under cross-examination from Michael Bowman SC, for the defence, that his view was that the blood-staining had occurred because an energetic event had taken place which was more consistent with an assault than one falling down the stairs. The witness further agreed that there may be an alternative explanation for the energetic event such as Mr Veigulus running up the stairs or Ms Apine’s body being moved.
Dr Doak commented that he would have expected to find more blood splatter on the area above the wall. Mr Bowman asked the witness was he aware that the accused had attempted to resuscitate his partner for up to ten minutes and he had been described by witnesses as heavily blood-stained. Dr Doak said he did not get involved in evidential witness statements.
The witness remarked that there was "definitely someone" who wanted to “clean-up” an area which they did not want people to see.
The trial continues tomorrow (Wednesday) before a jury of seven men and five women with Ms Justice Tara Burns presiding.
The jury has heard evidence that the accused told gardaí at the scene that he had been playing with his daughter in the living room when he heard a “boom, boom, boom” and Ms Apine crying. Mr Veigulis told the first garda to have arrived at the scene that he went into the hallway where he found Ms Apine at the end of the stairs.