Catherine Wells-Burr murder: Family betrayed by boyfriend
- 7 June 2013
- From the section Somerset
The parents of Catherine Wells-Burr accepted her boyfriend like a son, but he would go on to hurt them in "every way possible" after he placed a price on her head.
Buying her first home with Rafal Nowak should have been one of the happiest times of Ms Wells-Burr's life, but her mother, Jayne, said it was the moment her daughter "signed her own death warrant".
The 23-year-old graduate from Chard, Somerset, seemed to be in a loving and happy relationship.
The couple spent days at the beach along with her parents and sister, but one such day would become the last time Mrs Wells-Burr would see her "fun-loving" daughter.
"She seemed happy, we kissed and cuddled and I never thought that would be the last time we'd see her," she said.
While Nowak chatted with Ms Wells-Burr and her family at West Bay, in Dorset, his ex-girlfriend Anna Lagwinowicz and her uncle, Tadevsz Dmytryszyn, were buying the petrol that would later be used to burn his girlfriend's car - with her body inside.
'Betrayed us all'
Nowak and Lagwinowicz had plotted to kill her so they could claim her £123,000 life insurance policy.
"She signed her own death warrant as soon as she signed the mortgage, that was it," Mrs Wells-Burr said.
"We took him in like a son and he betrayed us all," her husband, Philip Wells-Burr, said.
"He was there when we went out for the weekend, all of us together, out to the beach, knowing in the back of his mind, knowing what he planned to do.
"There were no signs of this this sort of behaviour, of this hatred for Catherine, they were always arm and arm and kissing each other, there were no signs whatsoever."
But Nowak and Lagwinowicz had been planning the murder for several months.
Not only did they kill the business analyst, they also created pornographic profiles on explicit dating and social network sites in her name in an attempt to make her seem "promiscuous".
"With Anna doing the profiles that she did on Catherine, it's sickening," her mother said.
"As a mother you would never want that for your daughter and hearing what she did in prison in parading (photos of) Catherine's remains as a trophy - they have hurt us in every possible way they can.
"Anna and Rafal were both devious, callous, sickening people, they should never be allowed out into society again, they can never be corrected inside prison, they are just too evil."
Hours after smothering Catherine with a pillow - and while Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn disposed of her body - Nowak began his pretence that he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
He raised the alarm that she had not turned up to work and, as Ms Wells-Burr's family started to panic about her whereabouts, he played the part of the worried boyfriend. But he started to make mistakes.
"My thoughts were that he had done it," Mrs Wells-Burr said.
"It was just something that Rafal said, a couple of things outside. He said to me that he begged her not to go, which I thought was a strange thing.
"He said that he had 'lost his world', that he had 'lost his future', and I thought, well she's just missing, why would you say that? It didn't make sense, and I thought, it's not right."
The family were contacted by the police just after midday and told a car had been found on fire with a body inside. Three digits on the chassis matched Catherine's car.
Nowak was arrested that afternoon, but released after police found he was at work at the time of the fire.
That night he stayed with Ms Wells-Burr's parents.
"My thoughts then were that Catherine loved him so much, and he was a part of our family, then he should be there," Mrs Wells-Burr said.
But that evening he did not speak a word about her and showed no emotion.
"There were no tears, nothing," Mrs Wells-Burr said.
'Heart ripped out'
A day later Nowak was re-arrested for murder. He would go on to be charged with the crime, along with Lagwinowicz and Dmytryszyn.
"Catherine was a beautiful girl, absolutely beautiful," Mrs Wells-Burr said.
"We were so proud when she got her first-class honours degree at Bath Spa University. She worked so hard for it, she was dedicated to it.
"There was so much there for her, she has been robbed, we've been robbed."
Mr Wells-Burr added: "It feels like our heart and soul has been ripped out."
The family have set up a foundation in her name to help the families of other murder victims and raise awareness of the victim support homicide service.
"It's a very, very small service, and to realise there are only 35 [similar foundations] in this country, is why we are doing it," Mrs Wells-Burr said.