Three Poles were today convicted of the murder of an attractive young businesswoman whose body was horrifically destroyed in her burned out car.
Innocent Catherine Wells-Burr found herself caught in a deadly love triangle with her two-timing boyfriend Rafal Nowak and his jealous mistress Anna Lagwinowicz.
Evil Nowak, 31, was sharing a house with Catherine but agreed with Lagwinowicz to kill her in a bid to grab her six-figure life insurance.
Catherine, 23, was suffocated with a pillow at their home in Chard, Somerset before her body was driven away in her red Ford Focus.
It was taken to a layby in Ashill a few miles away where Lagwinowicz, 32, and her uncle Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, 38, were waiting.
They delayed until around 6am to give Nowak time to get to work before pouring petrol inside the car and setting it on fire with Catherine’s body strapped in the driver’s seat.
Before the murder the callous trio had planted messages trying to suggest that business analysts 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.
The trio all denied murdering Catherine last September but were found guilty after a seven-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Nowak – unanimously convicted – silently sobbed in the dock. Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn, both convicted by majority verdicts, showed no emotion.
Catherine’s parents Jayne and Philip – who had treated Nowak as their own son – were in court and wept with relief at the verdicts, together with her sister Leanne.
Judge Mrs. Justice Sharp said she would sentence the trio on Monday.
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.”
Police said Catherine was a young woman any parents would have been proud of who was caught in a deadly love triangle with an immoral and ruthless couple.
Nowak, a Polish immigrant, had already abandoned his wife and son in his homeland when he came to Britain in 2008.
He quickly started a relationship with fellow Pole Lagwinowicz, a scheming, money-grabbing and deeply jealous woman.
They shared a council house but in 2010 Nowak met Catherine when he started working at the Numatic International factory in Chard, Somerset.
She was a bright 21 year-old who had just graduated from Bath Spa University with a first class honours degree and was starting her working life.
For a while cheating Nowak dated both women before dumping Lagwinowicz to set up home with Catherine and they bought a house together in Chard in February 2012.
But two months later the love rat was back in Lagwinowicz’s bed, unbeknown to Catherine.
The two Poles repeatedly saw each other behind Catherine’s back, regularly meeting for sex while she was at work and often at Nowak’s house.
In the coming months Nowak and Lagwinowicz became increasingly frustrated by Catherine with Lagwinowicz in particular eager to get her out of their lives.
They were also short of money and hatched a plan to kill her for her six-figure life insurance.
As part of their evil plot they tried to portray Catherine as sexually promiscuous and deviant, creating false profiles for her on dating and dogging websites.
They posted photos of her with ficticious descriptions of her looking for group sex and romps with strangers.
But it was all a cruel attempt to tarnish the image of someone police described as ‘a perfect daughter and sister’.
By early September 2012 Nowak and Lagwinowicz had decided the time had come to kill Catherine.
Scheming Lagwinowicz, still deeply jealous of her love rival, persuaded her uncle Dmytryszyn, 38, to join their evil scheme.
The three plotters decided that September 9 was the night Catherine should be smothered in her bed at 14 Willow Way, the home she shared with Nowak.
But the plan was delayed when Catherine was woken by a wrong number phone call on her mobile and was left lying awake.
Nowak hurridly called Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn who were heading to the house from Taunton, Somerset and told them to abandon the murder for the night.
Lagwinowicz had already bought five litres of petrol ready to torch Catherine’s car and body.
However, two nights later they returned and found Catherine sleeping and murdered her in her bed.
Her body was then put into her car and driven to a layby where it was set on fire.
Nowak’s barrister tried to claim no forensic evidence had been found to prove how Catherine had died, or that he was responsible.
Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn did not take the stand to defend themselves.
Catherine’s family branded her murderers “cruel, callous, wicked, evil and sickening”.
Speaking outside court her mother Jayne said: “Catherine was an inspirational, amazing, caring, kind, intelligent young woman, who had her whole life ahead of her with so much potential.
“We were all very proud of her and the person she had become.
“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.
“Our world as we knew it has fallen apart. Our lives used to be fun, full of laughter and love.
“We can see no future without “Our Beautiful Catherine”. We are heartbroken.
“No prison sentence will ever be enough. In this country life is not life and we feel it should be.
“We are the ones facing the life sentence without her.”
Jayne, her ex-husband Philip and daughter Leanne all fought back tears as they delivered the joint family statement.
Detective Inspector Simon Crisp who led the murder case said: “This was a wicked crime committed against a bright and innocent young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.
“Nowak, Lagwinowocz and Dymtryszyn took both Catherine’s and her family’s future away from them on the night they carried out this calculated killing.
“They then tried to cover their tracks and mislead us in a bid to get away with what they had done.
“Murder is a terrible crime but what makes this worse is the intricate planning that took place while Nowak pretended to care about Catherine – playing the doting boyfriend while plotting to take her life for a few thousand pounds.
“While the verdict will never bring Catherine back I hope it goes some way in providing some closure knowing that justice has been done.”