Three Poles were each jailed for a minimum of 32 years today for the horrific murder of a young businesswoman whose body was found in her burnt-out car.
A judge told the evil trio they were cold-blooded killers who had carefully plotted the death of innocent Catherine Wells-Burr for her life insurance.
They were led by callous Rafal Nowak – who posed as Catherine’s doting boyfriend – while planning her murder with his jealous mistress Anna Lagwinowicz.
Nowak, 31, suffocated Catherine with a pillow as she slept at the home they shared in Chard, Somerset.
The body of the 23-year-old was taken in her red Ford Focus to a layby in Ashill a few miles away where Nowak’s lover Lagwinowicz, 32, and her uncle Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, 38, were waiting.
The pair waited until around 6am to give Nowak time to get to work before they poured petrol inside the car and set it on fire with Catherine’s body strapped in the driver’s seat.
The trio all denied murdering Catherine last September but were found guilty on Friday (7/6) following a seven-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Mrs Justice Sharp told them: “This was a dreadful, pitiless crime committed in cold blood and a grevious breach of trust.
“You murdered a fine young woman with everything to live for, for money. It involved a significant degree of planning.
“Nowak, the images of you leading Catherine round by the hand the evening before her death, buying items for what you knew would be her last meal is chilling.
“You are unscrupulous, cold hearted and emotiontionless.
“Lagwinowicz, your conduct has been deceitful, manipulative and cruel.
“Dmytryszyn you played your full part, you were a willing recruit. You knew what the plan was and I suspect why it was made.”
Setting a minimum tariff of 32 years she added: “I must set the minimum period you must serve before the parole board decided if you are safe to be released.
“Even if, and I emphasise the if, that occurs it will be in 32 years.”
Nowak – who was unanimously convicted – and Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn, both convicted by majority verdicts, showed no emotion as the sentences were read.
Catherine’s parents Jayne and Philip – who had treated Nowak as their own son – wept in the packed public gallery as their victim impact statements were read.
Sat with Catherine’s younger sister Leanne, 21, they all stared blankly at the killers as the sentences were given.
The court heard that Catherine found herself in a deadly love triangle with two-timing Nowak and Lagwinowicz who despised her.
Nowak and Lagwinowicz decided to kill her last September in a bid to grab her six-figure life insurance and share of her house.
Before the murder they planted messages trying to suggest that business analyst Catherine, who also worked with Nowak, was having an affair.
Texts were exchanged between specially purchased phones and SIM cards to lay a false trail trying to implicate a ‘secret lover’ in her death.
The killers also created fake profiles for blameless Catherine on sex websites – and even left her car at a notorious ‘dogging’ spot.
But police uncovered the plot between scheming Nowak and money-grabbing Lagwinowicz who had a fatal attraction for her fellow Pole and despised her love rival
Prosecutor Richard Smith had told the court: “After a course of heartless and careful planning by these three defendants, Catherine was murdered in the early hours of the morning in her own home.
“Nowak and Lagwinowicz planned the murder together with the input and help of Lagwinowicz’s uncle, the third defendant Dmytryszyn.
“By killing Catherine on that Wednesday they knew that they would secure a life insurance policy as a result, the home alone for Nowak, and Catherine would be removed from their future plans.”
Peter Blair, QC, defending Nowak, alongside, Andrew Langdon, QC, for Lagwinowicz and Ignatius Hughes QC, for Dymtryszyn, each invited the court to look at the motives behind the killing, claiming it was only partly based on financial gain.
Mr Langdon said: “We invite you to consider whether it was even in part financial or a strongly held irrational jealously.”
Speaking at the end of the trial Catherine’s family branded her murderers “cruel, callous, wicked, evil and sickening”.
Jayne said: “Catherine was an inspirational, amazing, caring, kind, intelligent young woman, who had her whole life ahead of her with so much potential.
“The hatred shown to her has truly shocked us, especially the hatred shown by Rafal Nowak, a man who was meant to have loved her.
“His betrayal to our family has devastated us. We treated him like a son and family member.
“Anna Lagwinowicz has been devious, manipulative and calculating, her actions to create such sickening false profiles of Catherine demonstrate this and as a result these evil people have made us question our judge of character and trust in people – we trust no-one.”
Catherine’s younger sister Leanne, 21, told the court she had been left heartbroken by the her ‘sickening and cruel’ murder.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: “She was not just my sister but she was my best friend and the thought of growing up without her breaks my heart.
“She was so special to mum, and dad and me. To think we have to try to carry on living without her is so hard.
“I don’t trust anyone. She was so young and had so much to achieve in her life.
“To know these three people are capable of doing this is sickening, to burn her to the ground and carry on thinking it is ok is so cruel.
“Catherine did nothing but love him.”
In her victim impact statement, Catherine’s mum Jayne said: “There is a special bond between a mother and daughter. She was my best friend.
“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, or ‘love you’, or to hear her say ‘love you mummy’.
“I will never see her beautiful face again. A parent should be able to say goodbye to her child. This was all all denied by the horrible way she left burning.
“No parent should suffer the way we have.”
Mrs Justice Sharp added: “It was all about the money. The murder was motivated by money, selfishness, greed and the twisted desire for revenge.”